If small business owners have their way, Terry Goddard could finally get to be governor, a post that has eluded him twice before.
A new survey of members of the Arizona Small Business Association found that 43 percent of the 250 companies that responded to the survey preferred Goddard. The former Phoenix mayor finally ran successfully for attorney general in 2002 after his unsuccessful bids to be the state's chief executive the previous decade.
The closest competition Goddard has, according to pollster Mike O'Neil, is from current Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, another Democrat. He was the choice of 21 percent.
And everyone else? Only Republican Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, managed to break double digits - but just barely at 10 percent. She was trailed by four other Republicans: Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, state Treasurer Dean Martin, with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas polling just 5 percent.
But O'Neil said Goddard should not be measuring the drapes in the governor's office, at least not yet.
"My guess is, that at this point, it's heavily name recognition," he said. "In any early poll like this the names that float to the top are the most well-known names."
He said, though, that doesn't make a poll now about the 2010 election meaningless.
"I'd rather be up by 10 (points) than down by 10," said O'Neil, who conducted the survey for Silver State Bank. "I'd rather start out on top."
Goddard will definitely be looking for a new job in 2010: The state constitution limits him to just two four-year terms. The same is true of Horne, though Martin, first elected treasurer in 2006, could seek re-election to his own post.
Peters also has shown some interest in the office, having weighed a gubernatorial bid two years ago.
But that plan imploded when it was discovered that she had registered to vote in Virginia after being named by President Bush during his first term as head of the Federal Highway Administration. That raised questions about her eligibility because the Arizona Constitution requires that candidates have been "citizens" of the state for five years before the election.
Peters said she now votes in Arizona even though she is still working in Washington.
Goddard first ran for governor in 1990 in a race that resulted in no one getting more than 50 percent. That led to an unusual runoff in 1991 when he lost to Republican Fife Symington.
He ran again in 1994 when he lost his party's bid to try to unseat Symington to Eddie Basha.
The survey, conducted in late June, has a margin of error of 6 percent.