HELENA – A new poll shows the Montana governor’s race remains tight with 3 percent of likely voters still undecided in the days before the general election.
A Lee Newspapers of Montana poll of likely voters found 49 percent supported Republican Rick Hill, 46 percent supported Democrat Steve Bullock and 2 percent planned to vote for Libertarian Ron Vandevender.
Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc. of Washington, D.C., polled 625 registered voters on both cellular and land-line phones from Monday through Wednesday. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Because the difference between the candidates falls within the poll’s margin of error, Mason-Dixon managing director Brad Coker said he’s still calling the race a tossup.
“I’m a little surprised,” Coker said. “Hill has been getting some bad press.”
That was a reference to the legal challenge over Hill’s decision to keep a $500,000 donation from the Montana Republican Party received during a six-day window between when U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled the state’s contribution limits unconstitutional and before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the limits pending an appeal. A state judge ruled Wednesday that the donation was likely illegal and prevented Hill from spending it.
Hill’s campaign staff has maintained it was a legal donation, but they have decided not to appeal District Judge Kathy Seeley’s decision.
A similar poll in mid-September found Bullock with 44 percent, Hill with 43 percent and 11 percent undecided.
“The fact that Hill’s survived and picked up a little bit since he picked up some bad press is encouraging to him,” Coker said. “Having the Republican label, I’m sure, is making the difference.”
Coker added: “When it comes to campaign finance, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to resonate with voters.”
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