A Washington Post poll released Tuesday further confirms that the Democratic primary in the DC mayoral race is a contest between Vince Gray and Muriel Bowser. Thirty percent of likely voters surveyed say they plan to vote for Bowser, while 27 percent say they are pulling for Gray, a statistical tie a week before the primary.
The poll, taken last week, shows continued momentum for Bowser and little movement for Gray when the campaigns are burning through their cash reserves. The Post’s last poll, taken in late January, showed Gray with the support of 28 percent of likely voters and the other seven candidates in the low double digits or below.
Since then, Bowser has emerged as the candidate with the best shot to defeat the incumbent, especially in the wake of businessman Jeffrey Thompson’s admission earlier this month that he bankrolled an off-the-books “shadow campaign” to help elect Gray in 2010. Federal prosecutors now allege that Gray had knowledge of the scheme.
Gray’s campaign manager, Chuck Thies, said last week that his client is the victim of a “coordinated smear campaign” orchestrated by US Attorney Ron Machen’s office and the media, but according to the Post’s poll, three-quarters of likely voters believe Machen has conducted his investigation fairly, while 62 percent believe the accusation that Gray knew about Thompson’s illegal contributions.
Bowser performed well across several demographic groups in the new Post poll, leading among female voters, college graduates, and voters between 50 and 64 years old. But 48 percent of all likely voters questioned say they could change their mind before next Tuesday, and of that group 32 percent are currently supporting Bowser, while 19 percent are backing Gray.
“Voters are looking for change,” says Bowser’s campaign manager, Bo Shuff. “Gray hasn’t moved since the last Washington Post poll. He has gone absolutely nowhere.”
Gray’s support continues to appear locked in. He leads Bowser for likely black voters, 40 percent to 27 percent, and has a commanding lead among voters for whom the economy is the primary issue. But the size of Gray’s voting bloc has remained consistent across several polls taken since January, and Gray has focused his campaign on driving out his base east of the Anacostia River, especially since last Wednesday when he announced his endorsement by mayor-for-life Marion Barry.
But only 12 percent of likely voters say Barry makes them more inclined to vote for Gray, while 26 percent say it makes them less inclined, and 61 percent say the endorsement makes no difference at all.
The Post poll had a bit of good news for Tommy Wells, who came in third with 14 percent of likely voters, an improvement over his 9 percent showing in last week’s Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show survey. But Jack Evans, who has raised and spent the most money in the race, sank to 6 percent, tied with first-time candidate Andy Shallal.
The poll also included a hypothetical match-ups for Bowser and Gray against Council member David Catania, who is running as an independent in the general election. Catania and Gray are tied at 41 percent among registered voters, while Bowser leads Catania 56 percent to 23 percent.
Catania’s campaign manger, Ben Young, notes that the Post’s sample of 1,402 registered voters was 85 percent Democratic. He also attributes Bowser’s big hypothetical lead to the fact that his candidate only entered the race two weeks ago.
“It’s not surprising that somebody who’s been campaigning full-time for a year and has spent over $1 million has a big gap,” Young says. “For the first time we have a seven-month general election. We’re prepared to run against whoever. We have a candidate who has a record, stands up for that record, and who brings a lot of passion to that job.”