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Illinois Seat Could Flip

Poll: Democrat Leads in Weller’s District

A new Roll Call poll is echoing an already-somber tone for Republicans in central Illinois, as state Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D) has a double-digit lead against Chicago-area concrete magnate Marty Ozinga (R) two weeks before Election Day.

The automated SurveyUSA poll was conducted for Roll Call on Oct. 20-21.

In the poll, Halvorson, whom Republicans have worked overtime in recent months trying to link with Land of Lincoln’s scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), was ahead of Ozinga, 50 percent to 37 percent.

Green Party candidate Jason Wallace took 9 percent of the vote.

The survey, which interviewed 623 likely voters had a 4-point error margin.

High unfavorable ratings appear to be plaguing Ozinga, a political newcomer whose Windy City ready-mix concrete empire has received its fair share of unflattering press in the past decade amid allegations of City Hall “pay-to-play” deals and sham front businesses.

The new poll results also suggest that despite vigorous campaigning to show a kinder, gentler Ozinga, voters in retiring Rep. Jerry Weller’s (R) district are not convinced: 37 percent of likely voters view him unfavorably, while just 29 percent have a positive impression of him.

But Ozinga’s well-known opponent isn’t faring much better. Halvorson’s decade in Springfield and proximity to the governor, whose scandals have dominated local news, also appear to have taken their toll on the former Mary Kay saleswoman: 41 percent of those polled have a positive impression of her, while 27 percent view her unfavorably.

The poll’s gender breakdown is stark, with women choosing Halvorson by 18 percentage points. Men, too, broke with Halvorson by 7 points, and they had a better impression of her than Ozinga.

Middle-aged and black voters, who make up roughly 8 percent of the 11th district’s electorate, picked Halvorson in the highest concentrations.

Halvorson also polled better with self- described members of the opponent’s party. In the survey, Ozinga picked up 77 percent of GOP vote, 5 percent from Democrats and 30 percent of independents. Halvorson took 89 percent of the Democratic vote, 13 percent from Republicans and 44 percent from independents.

The third-party candidate also appears to be helping Halvorson, siphoning off more votes from registered Republicans than registered Democrats in the poll, as well as 20 percent of the vote from self-described independents.

Democrats also appear poised to flip the seat in the presidential election. President Bush carried the district twice, with 53 percent in 2004 and 50 percent in 2000, but home-state presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D) was well in front of GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), 49 percent to 44 percent.

Ticket-splitters also gave Halvorson the edge in Roll Call’s poll, with 12 percent of McCain voters choosing her, while just 5 percent of Obama voters picked Ozinga.

Ongoing national economic woes, which Democrats are playing up in races across the country, also are weighing heavily on the minds of voters in the heavily blue-collar district, which takes in exurban and rural counties south and west of Chicago and parts of Bloomington.

Of those interviewed in the automated poll, 56 percent responded that the economy was the “one issue Congress should focus on ahead of all others.”

The next biggest issue was terrorism, which garnered 9 percent, followed by health care and immigration at 7 percent.

The new poll results are not out of line with a Democratic poll released last week, that suggested that the heavily financed Halvorson is surging in the final weeks of the campaign.

In an Anzalone Liszt Research survey released Oct. 17, Halvorson led 48 percent to 29 percent. The poll, which had a 4.9-point margin of error, interviewed 400 people Oct. 10-13.

“Halvorson has expanded her lead over Republican Marty Ozinga in the open-seat race for Illinois’ 11 Congressional district,” Democratic pollsters John Anzalone and Jeff Liszt wrote in an earlier polling memo. “Halvorson’s broadcast television buy has shifted the dynamics of the race in her favor and given the resources to continue her paid communications, she is a strong favorite to win this election.”

As of Oct. 1, Halvorson had almost $275,000 in cash on hand and Ozinga had almost $176,000. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent heavily on the race, kicking in $865,000 on Halvorson’s behalf, while the National Republican Congressional Committee has left the wealthy contractor to fend for himself.

Ozinga has repeatedly pledged not to self-fund his race.

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