Poll shows Swanson leading in attorney general's race

(AP) Democratic attorney general candidate Lori Swanson held an 18 percentage point lead over Republican Jeff Johnson in a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, but 18 percent of those polled were still undecided. But the poll, published in Wednesday's editions, also found that relatively few of the state's voters know who any of the candidates to be Minnesota's top legal officer are.

Swanson had the support of 46 percent of 820 likely voters surveyed by telephone statewide Sept. 13 through Friday, just after she won a tight three-way primary election for the DFL nomination.

Johnson had the support of 28 percent of those polled, John James of the Independence Party had 6 percent and the Green Party's Papa John Kolstad had 2 percent.

The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

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While the DFL has had a lock on Minnesota's attorney general elections since 1970, the newspaper said Swanson's numbers offer no guarantee she will win Nov. 7, pointing out that 18 percent of those polled voiced no support for anyone on the ballot for attorney general.

The Star Tribune said an even clearer indication of the fluidity of the race was the weak name identification for all the candidates. Swanson was the best known, with only 32 percent recognition - 14 points less than her support. Johnson's name recognition was 23 percent - 5 points less than his support.

The newspaper said those results suggest that many voters are reacting more to party labels than to personalities.

Swanson, of Eagan, who is making her first run for office after years as top deputy to outgoing Attorney General Mike Hatch, told the Star Tribune her lead could reflect publicity from her primary victory Sept. 12. But, she added: "I'm encouraged. I think the voters are pretty intuitive."

Johnson, a three-term state representative from Plymouth who faced token primary opposition, told the newspaper he expected an even worse showing in such an early poll.

"I'm not shocked," he said. "But it just doesn't tell you anything when most people don't know who either candidate is. Hopefully, the voters will make their decisions with more information than they have now."