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Colorado Governor Seeks Re-Election

February 16, 2002

DENVER (AP) _ Four years ago, the governor’s race came down to the wire as Bill Owens won his first term. It’s a far different situation this time around as he prepares to announce his re-election bid.

Owens won his first term by defeating then-Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler by just 8,151 votes, becoming the state’s first Republican governor in 24 years.

Now, coming up on his campaign announcement Monday, Owens has $4.2 million in his campaign coffers and one of the highest approval ratings since taking office.

Among Democratic contenders, one has dropped out of the race and another may quit to run for Congress, leaving Boulder businessman Rollie Heath the expected Democratic challenger in November.

A political newcomer who announced his campaign in July _ the first to kick off the governor’s race _ Heath remains a virtual unknown, pollster Paul Talmey said.

``Heath has a number of disadvantages, especially with Owens seen as doing a good job. It’s one of the tougher races this year,″ said Talmey, who does research primarily for Democratic candidates.

Still, Heath, a former executive for Johns Manville Corp., is running hard and has made it a point to stop at service stations, diners, barber shops and businesses as he tours the state. He’s raised $284,000.

In October, Democratic state Senate President Stan Matsunaka threw his hat into the ring, raising about $101,000 by the end of the year. But he plans to announce Monday whether he’ll quit to run for Congress _ a suggestion made by national party leaders.

Owens is keeping his campaign strategy private, and declined to comment until he launches his bid Monday with a three-day statewide tour.

But he’s got an edge. A poll of 600 people last week showed 70 percent approved of Owens, up from 65 percent last June. Matsunaka’s favorable rating was 26 percent, with 60 percent of likely voters unable to identify him.

Heath had an 8 percent favorable rating, with 87 percent of those surveyed saying they either have no opinion or don’t know about him.

``I have to get people to know me, but I also have to educate people on what the issues are and what we are doing,″ Heath said in an interview.

The poll, conducted by Ciruli Associates for KUSA-TV, had a potential margin of error of 4 percentage points.

___

On the Net:

Heath: http://www.rollieheathforgovernor.com

Owens: http://www.owens2002.net

Matsunaka: http://www.stan2002.com

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