Exclusive Poll: Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon fails to gain traction

SHARE Exclusive Poll: Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon fails to gain traction

This much is certain six weeks out from the fall elections.

If you’re an incumbent statewide officeholder on the lower end of the ballot, your political fortunes look pretty good at the moment — unless your name happens to be Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, whose bid to switch offices seems to have failed to gain traction thus far.

In fact, when looking at any of the secondary prizes on the November 4 ballot, the only statewide race that appears competitive now is for state treasurer, where former House Minority Leader Tom Cross continues to hold a slim lead over Democratic rival Michael Frerichs.

Those are the principalresults from a new Chicago Sun-Times/We Ask America poll on the campaigns for attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer.

The automated, statewide telephone poll of 1,071 likely voters put Cross, an 11-term state representative from Oswego, ahead of Frerichs by a 42 to 35 percent spread. Libertarian Matthew Skopek drew support from 7 percent of those surveyed.

The margin of error for the Wednesday poll was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Cross, who was first seated in the House in 1993, was the House GOP leader for a decade, a role that served to elevate his statewide name recognition and to build a political network. And while Frerichs has been in the state Senate since 2007, he has had a lower profile, though he played a key role in helping eliminate the scandal-plagued legislative scholarship program in 2012.

We Ask America Chief Operating Officer Gregg Durham said Cross’ better name recognition could account partly for his lead. But that advantage also could signify the effects of possible coattails from an anticipated GOP wave that is forecast nationally in the non-presidential election cycle, he said.

“If this is generally a good year for Republicans, down-ballot races like this one is where it will show up,” Durham said.

Cross’ campaign attributed the continued lead to revelations that have surfaced in the campaign.

“Sen. Frerichs’ campaign has been plagued by significant problems that have damaged his credibility, including newspaper reports that he did not pay property taxes for six years and claims of mismanagement and patronage during his term as Champaign County auditor,” Cross spokesman Kevin Artl said. “Tom Cross has maintained his lead by laying out his vision for the office, including fighting for a balanced budget and a government integrity unit to crack down on fraud and corruption.”

The property tax issue was brought to light by Crain’s Chicago Business, which reported in August that Frerichs owed more than $1,800 in six years worth of back property taxes on his legislative office in Champaign. Frerichs originally maintained he did not have a tax obligations since the space was used for public purposes but later paid the bill.

Frerichs’ spokesman Zach Koutsky blasted Cross as “the ultimate Springfield insider. For 20 years in Springfield, Cross has put political insiders and the special interests first at the expense of the middle class. Cross has had a leading role in the corruption, dysfunction and misplaced priorities that have led Illinois in the wrong direction.”

“We’re confident that once voters get to know Mike Frerichs and learn about his financial qualifications, record of supporting the middle class and plans for reforming the treasurer’s office, we will win this race,” Koutsky said.

POLL DETAILS:The Early & Often Poll is based on a random sample of 1,071 likely Illinoisvoters in the Nov. 4 election. It is an automated poll conducted by We Ask America. Respondents were contacted by telephone on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. About 30 percent were reached on their cellphones. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, larger for demographic subgroups.

In other statewide races, first-term Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka holds a comfortable lead over Simon, Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2010 running mate and the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.

The poll showed Topinka with support from 55 percent of those surveyed, compared to 32 percent for Simon and 6 percent for Libertarian Julie Fox. Those results mark a slight widening of Topinka’s lead from the Sept. 4 Reboot Illinois poll, which showed a 51 to 32 percent lead for Topinka over Simon.

“While no one understands what the comptroller does, they view Judy as a competent and as someone who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of politicians,” Durham said. “It also doesn’t help Simon that she’s from ‘Forgotonia.’ Eighty percent of the vote lies north of her.”

Durham once was a press secretary for Topinka when she was state treasurer.

Simon, of Carbondale, has criticized Topinka for her comments to Quinn over a hot microphone about getting her son a state job and her awarding of a no-bid $40,000 contract to former state GOP chairman Pat Brady to interact with law-enforcement agencies across the state.

“Judy Baar Topinka is a known quantity for voters, so our opponent’s disingenuous attacks fall flat,” said Topinka spokesman Bradley Hahn, who said the latest polling data is comparable to her own internal polling.

A Simon aide said her campaign doesn’t “take We Ask America polls seriously” and that the margins are much closer.

“Our own internal polling shows a much closer race, one that will be won by directly communicating with voters and discussing Sheila’s plan to bring transparency and accountability to state and local spending,” Simon spokesman Dave Mellet said. “We have already reserved close to half a million dollars in air time to accomplish this goal and will be adding onto that as election day nears.”

The secretary of state’s race is equally one-sided, with four-term Democratic incumbent Jesse White ahead of GOP rival Michael Webster by a 61-to-28 percent spread. Libertarian Christopher Michel had 5 percent support in the poll.

“Jesse White has been around since the original lungfish crawled out of the ocean and has decades of good will through his Tumblers and quality services provided by his office,” Durham said.

White’s campaign did not dispute the poll’s findings.

“It’s very flattering, and I believe the public sees the improvement Secretary White has made in the office,” White spokesman Dave Druker said. “We take nothing for granted and will continue our efforts to make this office as efficient as possible.”

Webster, a Willowbrook attorney and certified public accountant, is a political newcomer who believes White has “dropped the ball in many areas, including technology, services to business and customer service.”

“I knew from the very beginning of this campaign that it would not be an easy task to unseat a four-time incumbent and a very popular one at that. But I am proud to be the person giving the voters that choice. No one in politics is an institution. We are all supposed to be public servants. Mr. White’s popularity does not immunize him for a challenge,” Webster said.

And finally, in the race for attorney general, three-term Democratic incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan leads former Marine and Waterloo attorney Paul Schimpf by a 53 to 32 percent spread in the new poll. Libertarian Ben Koyl drew support from 6 percent of those surveyed.

“When people hear Attorney General Madigan’s record of fighting for the people of Illinois and for the state, they strongly support her,” Madigan spokeswoman Eileen Boyce said. “Among many of her accomplishments, she has recovered more than $10 billion for the state, secured $2.8 billion in relief for Illinois homeowners, communities and pension systems so far and has brought more than $2 billion in refunds and savings to utility consumers.”

Schimpf, a military lawyer who helped in the prosecution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has criticized Madigan for doing little to fight political wrongdoing and for not disassociating herself from the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative scandal that has bedeviled Quinn.

Madigan was co-chair of the board of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, a now-disbanded state agency that was charged with the rollout and implementation of the $54.5 million anti-violence grant program now under federal investigation.

Republicans are awaiting word from Madigan about whether she will weigh in on making Quinn turn over a cache of NRI-related emails to the Legislative Audit Commission, which is investigating the program.

“Ms. Madigan does show some weakness as a 12-year incumbent who barely breaks 50 percent in any poll. Our own internal polling shows a much closer race,” Schimpf spokeswoman Christina Myers said. “Unfortunately, the press has not taken interest in Madigan’s refusal to fight corruption in Illinois or her refusal to recuse herself from giving legal advice in the NRI investigation due to a conflict of interest, instead choosing to cover her efforts on consumer protection.”

Sun-Times / We Ask America poll

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