A new poll shows Republican Brian Sandoval is pulling away from Democrat John Hunt in the race for attorney general with a lead of 46 percent to 37 percent.
The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc. of Washington, D.C., shows Hunt and Sandoval are even in Clark County with 42 percent each, but Sandoval is way ahead in Washoe County, 50 percent to 29 percent, and in rural Nevada, 54 percent to 28 percent.
The statewide telephone poll of 625 likely voters was taken Monday through Wednesday for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The sampling error margin was 4 percentage points.
Independent American candidate Jonathan Hansen has 2 percent, none of the above has 3 percent and 12 percent remain undecided.
Negative numbers have grown for both candidates. Sandoval, an attorney in private practice in Reno, was viewed negatively by 16 percent of those polled. In a similar poll in August, his unfavorable rating was 6 percent. Hunt's negative number was 17 percent. In August, that number was 5 percent.
"My message of being tough on crime, protecting seniors and children from fraud and abuse and stopping the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain is being heard," Sandoval said.
Hunt, a Las Vegas attorney, was unfazed by the numbers.
"We have the campaign and the momentum to put us over the top," he said. "The question is, after meeting both of us, who would you hire to be your attorney? It's not about sound bites and billboards. It's who do you want for your attorney, and that decision is being made in my favor."
Brad Coker, managing partner of the polling firm, said that with a 9 percentage-point difference, the race is not out of the question for Hunt.
"With almost 10 days left, if he outspent and out-hustled his opponent, there is a possibility," Coker said.
The poll shows Sandoval has extended his lead on Hunt since a poll conducted for the Review-Journal in late August. In that survey, Hunt trailed Sandoval by only 2 points, 39 percent to 37 percent.
Since then, Hunt's support has remained flat, while Sandoval has gained support, the new poll shows. The number of undecided voters dropped from 21 percent to 12 percent in the latest poll.
Since the August poll, Hunt has run an ad criticizing Sandoval for his role in an adoption case, while Sandoval repeatedly has attacked Hunt for the campaign contributions from the employees and associates of a Las Vegas-based mortgage company.
The most recent controversy emerged earlier this week when Hunt criticized Sandoval for his response to a question posed by a Review-Journal editorial writer about enforcement of unconstitutional laws.
Sandoval was asked whether he would enforce such laws and was given as an example a hypothetical law requiring Jews to wear yellow stars of David on their clothing.
"It's my job to enforce it," Sandoval said.
Hunt has been running an ad using the question and Sandoval's response in text form across the screen. In the ad, the Hunt campaign does not accuse Sandoval of being anti-Semitic.
"It's a question of judgment and a lack of legal skills," Hunt said in an interview. "Before I would enforce a law that is patently and obviously unconstitutional, I would resign the office."
Others have come to Sandoval's defense.
Bob Unger and Meyer Bodoff, the president and executive vice president, respectively, of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas, called any charges of anti-Semitism aimed at Sandoval for the statement "groundless."
"In fact, we find troubling the words of those who would trivialize the serious nature of anti-Semitism by tossing the charge around for political purposes," they said in a letter.
Cynthia Luria, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on Friday: "We accept Mr. Sandoval's assertion that his remarks were taken out of context."