New polls measure voter sentiment on three of the closest races in the primary next week

LAS VEGAS - A week before the primary election, state Sen. Joe Neal holds a 7 point lead over Democratic challenger Uri Clinton with large numbers of voters still undecided, a new poll shows.

A poll commissioned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc. gives Neal the edge over Clinton, a Las Vegas attorney, but results vary when more information is provided about Neal.

The pollster first asked voters who they would vote for without providing any information about the candidates.

Neal, a 28-year legislative veteran from North Las Vegas, was the choice of 39 percent while Clinton drew 32 percent. Chris Montanez, who has dropped out of the race and endorsed Clinton, drew 3 percent. Twenty-six percent were undecided.

Those results changed significantly when the following nuclear waste question was asked: ''If you knew that Joe Neal is an incumbent who supports nuclear waste being transported in Nevada and Uri Clinton and Chris Montanez oppose nuclear waste being transported in your neighborhoods, would you be more likely to support Joe Neal, Uri Clinton or Chris Montanez?''

With that qualifier, Clinton led Neal 40 percent to 27 percent. Montanez jumped to 11 percent with 22 percent undecided.

Told of the results, Neal said nuclear waste is a ''red herring.''

''Our position is that nuclear waste is not an issue in this particular district,'' he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Tuesday's editions. ''Bioterrorism is more likely to happen than someone being killed by nuclear waste.''

Clinton could not be reached for comment immediately.

Neal is leading a drive to raise the gross gaming tax on the state's wealthiest casinos from 6.25 to 11.25 percent to benefit several state programs.

In other results:

--Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican challenger, civil engineer Chip Maxfield.

--Commissioner Mary Kincaid's 49-point advantage in June has dwindled to a still comfortable 20-point advantage over her Democratic opponent, North Las Vegas Councilwoman Stephanie Smith. The winner of the Kincaid-Smith race is likely to win in the general election.

George Togliatti, Harrah's corporate director of government and community relations, said the polls indicate Kincaid will defeat Smith in the Sept. 5 primary, Malone might squeak by Maxfield and Clinton is within striking distance of Neal.

In the new poll, conducted for Harrah's by McGuire Research of Denver, Maxfield's 42 percent and Malone's 40 percent showing in the District C GOP primary are within the poll's 4.5 percent margin-of-error.

Harrah's has given Kincaid $10,000 and Clinton $2,500 but did not contribute to anyone in the Malone race because Togliatti, a former FBI agent, once considered challenging Malone.

Both commission polls were conducted during the weekend, while the Senate poll was done on Thursday. Four hundred people were polled in each district. Only registered Democrats were polled in the state Senate and Kincaid-Smith race while the Malone-Maxfield poll was limited to Republicans.


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