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WBUR Poll: Dem Nomination For Governor Up For Grabs; Galvin Holds Big Lead Over Zakim

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jay Gonzalez, left, and Bob Massie during a debate at UMass Boston (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jay Gonzalez, left, and Bob Massie during a debate at UMass Boston (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

A new WBUR poll of likely Democratic primary voters in Massachusetts shows the party’s nomination for governor between Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie is up for grabs.

It also shows longtime Secretary of State William Galvin with a comfortable lead over challenger Josh Zakim, a Boston city councilor.

The poll of 418 likely Democratic voters, taken Friday through Monday (topline results, crosstabs), comes a little more than two months before the Sept. 4 primary.

The biggest challenge facing the Democratic candidates for governor is simply getting noticed. Voters who aren't sure who they're voting for made up a majority of the initial responses — 61 percent. Gonzalez, who previously worked for former Gov. Deval Patrick and who garnered Democrats' endorsement at the party convention, got 16 percent. Environmentalist Massie got 13 percent.

When undecided voters are asked which way they are leaning, Gonzalez’s support goes up to 21 percent, Massie's to 15 percent.

Whoever ultimately wins in September still has an uphill battle against the well-financed, and well-liked, incumbent governor, Charlie Baker. The WBUR poll shows, of the likely Democratic voters asked, 68 percent have a favorable impression of Baker, to 14 percent unfavorable.

Gonzalez’s favorability rating among those asked is 16 percent, with 61 percent saying they never heard of him. Massie brought in similar numbers: 15 percent of voters said they had a favorable impression of him, while 55 percent had never heard of him.

Though it's only been three years since Patrick left after two terms in office, no Democrat has been able to successfully fill his shoes. It's reminiscent of the 1990s following the retirement of former Gov. Michael Dukakis, when Republican after Republican was voted into the state's highest office.

Besides a lack of name recognition, both Gonzalez and Massie suffer from a lack of funds. As of June 15, Gonzalez had $158,517 in the bank; Massie, an anemic $10,057. While the winner of the primary may see an uptick in funds between September and November, it will very likely pale in comparison to Baker's war chest, which as of mid-June stood at $8.25 million.

The other spirited race on the Democratic side is for secretary of state.

Galvin has held that job since 1994, and has faced very few challengers over the years. This cycle, Zakim is giving Galvin some agita, but if the numbers in the WBUR poll hold, the Beacon Hill institution has little to worry about.

Galvin gets 46 percent of those polled saying they'll vote for him the primary, versus 17 percent for Zakim.

Galvin, who's been the face of official voter guides for more than two decades, is unfamiliar to only 29 percent of those polled. Sixty-two percent say they have never heard of Zakim, who is the son of the late civil rights leader Leonard Zakim, namesake of the iconic bridge that carries I-93 over the Charles River.

Zakim did surprise many earlier this month when he beat Galvin 55 percent to 45 percent at the Democratic endorsing convention in Worcester.

Since then, Galvin has stepped up his campaign efforts by hiring a communications director and finally getting Twitter accounts for his campaign, as well as for his official office.

Related:

Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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