Race for governor tightens, US Senate race is Merkley’s to lose

merkelyA new survey from The New York Times and CBS News finds Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber with a 6-point lead over Republican Dennis Richardson, which is about what the news organizations found when they polled the race before controversy broke over First Lady Cylvia Hayes’ past and her business connections.

The same survey also found that Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., holds a 12-point lead over Republican challenger Monica Wehby, down 2 points from the lead he held in an earlier Times/CBS survey.

The governor’s race has taken on new suspense following revelations earlier this month, first reported by Willamette Week, that Hayes was doing consulting work that raised conflict-of-interest issues and that she had been paid in the 1990s to marry an Ethiopian immigrant seeking residency in the U.S.

These and other issues swirling around Hayes have dominated coverage of the race but polling has been unclear about its impact on voters. The new poll showed a drop of just one 1 percentage point in Kitzhaber’s lead, which is well within the margin of error of 4 percentage points, plus or minus, so it’s hard to know if there has been a change in sentiment.

However, the Times/CBS poll has shown the race closer than some other organizations that have surveyed the race, and there is some indication voters may be wavering in their support of Kitzhaber.

Things seem less dramatic in the race for US Senate where the incumbent Merkley has fended off the early charge from Wehby and continues to enjoy a double digit lead in the polls.