HELENA — Republican Steve Daines holds a solid lead over Democrat Kim Gillan in the race for Montana’s sole U.S. House seat in the week before the election, according to a Gazette State Poll.
The telephone survey of Montana registered voters, conducted earlier this week, showed 51 percent supporting Daines and 40 percent for Gillan. One percent said they’re voting for Libertarian Dave Kaiser, of Victor, while 8 percent remain undecided.
Daines, 50, a former technology company executive from Bozeman, has been campaigning for nearly two years and has had a consistent fundraising edge over Gillan from the beginning.
Gillan, 60, a state senator and workforce training coordinator from Billings, emerged from a crowded Democratic primary this spring and has struggled to become known among voters.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., conducted the poll, surveying 625 registered voters who said they’re likely to vote. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
“Obviously, Daines has a pretty clear advantage,” said Brad Coker, managing director of the polling firm. “Even if everything falls off to Gillan or the Libertarian, he’s still at 51 percent.”
The poll also showed Daines gaining slightly from a Gazette State Poll taken six weeks ago, when he had an eight-point lead, with 14 percent undecided.
In the earlier poll, half of those surveyed said they didn’t know Gillan and nearly one-third were unfamiliar with Daines. This time around, one-fourth of those polled earlier this week had not heard of Gillan and 14 percent were unfamiliar with Daines.
Daines, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2008, has never held public office. This race is Gillan’s first for statewide office. She’s been a state legislator in Billings since 1997.
Daines has raised nearly $2 million for his campaign, compared with about $820,000 for Gillan. Daines enjoyed a 10-to-1 money advantage in midsummer and has been running TV ads consistently for the past several weeks.
Daines has been campaigning on a “more jobs, less government” theme, saying he’ll oppose tax increases and work to cut federal spending. He’s also taken conservative positions on social issues, saying abortion should be illegal except when the mother’s life is in danger.
Gillan says her record is one of a practical “problem-solver” who can help break the partisan gridlock in Congress, and that Daines is too extreme.
Kaiser has had a low-profile campaign, relying primarily on a website that says he’ll poll voters on bills before he votes on them in Congress.
In the poll, Daines led in all areas of the state except Helena-Butte, where Gillan was leading 49 percent to 41 percent.
Daines also enjoyed a huge lead among male voters, 58 percent to 34 percent, while Gillan was favored slightly by women, 46 percent to 44 percent.
Daines also held a big lead among voters who call themselves independents, who make up about one-third of the electorate in Montana, with 54 percent saying they would vote for him and 30 percent for Gillan.