This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A new poll shows Gov. Gary Herbert with a massive lead as he heads into a June 28 primary with Republican challenger Jonathan Johnson, but the Johnson campaign argues the survey is garbage and the race is much closer.
The poll, conducted for UtahPolicy.com, shows Herbert leading Johnson 74 percent to 19 percent among registered GOP voters.
But the Johnson campaign said it has its own polling which it will not release that paints a vastly different picture of the race and said that voters don't want another four years of Herbert.
"To put it bluntly, Utah Policy's polling numbers are wrong," Johnson campaign spokeswoman Sasha Clark said in a statement. "Just as Jonathan Johnson defeated Governor Herbert convincingly at the state convention, he will end Herbert's 26 years as a career politician at the upcoming primary election."
Johnson beat Herbert at the Utah Republican Convention, winning 55 percent of the delegate vote to force Herbert to a June runoff.
Herbert campaign manager Marty Carpenter said that convention win amounted to a few hundred delegates and the campaign is now focused on taking its message to more than 600,000 registered Republican voters.
"We're obviously happy with what the polls indicate at this point," Carpenter said. "That always comes with the sentiment that we don't take any vote for granted and the governor is going to continue to work. … Certainly we're not taking our foot off the gas, but any time you see numbers like that, from a third-party poll in particular, it's a positive situation to be in."
The numbers released Wednesday are almost identical to the figures Utah Policy released before the convention in April, as well as Herbert's internal poll numbers that he shared with a group of lobbyists and supporters at a recent meeting at the Alta Club.
That internal poll showed Herbert leading Johnson 71-16 percent in a head-to-head matchup with Johnson.
But Team Johnson has challenged the validity of those surveys, and the one Wednesday, arguing that the pollster, Dan Jones & Associates, did both the Utah Policy surveys and does the polling for Herbert.
Before the convention, Johnson said Jones was "bought and paid for" by the Herbert campaign.
"Their efforts now with the release of these latest polling numbers, once again conducted by the Herbert campaign's own pollster, are beyond rational comprehension," Clark said Wednesday.
Utah Policy managing editor Bryan Schott said he resents "being blamed for Mr. Johnson's low numbers" and added that the campaign should not blame the messenger.
"We have full faith and confidence in our pollster, Dan Jones & Associates," Schott said. "Even though Jones polls for the Herbert campaign, this survey was completely independent, commissioned by us, without interference or input from the Herbert campaign."
Carpenter said Johnson's attempts to discredit the polling "should be taken with a grain of salt," and that there is "no reason to doubt the validity or veracity of the numbers that are in the poll."
The new Utah Policy poll was based on interviews with 258 registered Republicans and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points.
Also on Wednesday, the Johnson campaign challenged Herbert to six debates in six counties across the state.
"Before Utahns vote, they should be able to compare candidates side by side at a time and location convenient for them," Johnson said in the challenge, noting that if Herbert is available any time to meet with donors, as he recently told a group of lobbyists at a fundraising meeting, "it's time to make room in his schedule for Utah voters."
The two met in one debate leading up to the convention, but Johnson said that is not enough and "Republican voters need more side-by-side comparison opportunities to vet who they want to elect to run the state for the next four years."
Carpenter said the campaign has not heard from the Johnson camp about any debate proposal.
"We haven't made a final decision yet what we'll do with regard to debates," Carpenter said.