The race to become the District’s first elected attorney general is turning nasty, but veteran defense attorney Karl Racine is steadily pulling ahead in the pack of five candidates, according to a pair of polls made public Friday.
The four other contenders trail Racine by ten points or more, the polls report. A poll commissioned by WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show and Washington City Paper had Racine at 22 percent, followed by Edward “Smitty” Smith with 13 percent, Lorie Masters at 12 percent, Paul Zukerberg at 11 percent, and Lateefah Williams at 4 percent.
The other poll, an internal survey paid for by Racine’s campaign, also showed him with 22 percent, followed by Masters at 12 percent, Smith at 10 percent, and Zukerberg and Lateefah Williams finishing in single digits.
“While we are moving super voters into our camp,” says Racine consultant Sean Rankin, “our competitors are throwing Hail Mary passes at press conferences.”
Smith’s spokesman, John Rodriguez, scoffs at the WAMU poll because of its small sample size of 591 likely voters who answered an automated questionnaire conducted by Public Policy Polling.
“They may not reflect the numbers as clearly as they could,” he tells Washingtonian. He touted Smith’s heavy backing by labor unions, including hotel workers, nurses, teamsters, and government employees.
“They will be working the polls,” says Rodriguez. “Good luck to Karl.”
The Hail Mary referred to by Rankin came during this week’s press conference when Masters and Smith released audits questioning payments to Racine’s law firm, Venable, particularly when he was managing the firm. But the audits failed to implicate Racine in any way, and the investigators blamed government bureaucrats for botching the contracts.
“Not even close to a smoking gun,” says one political consultant who’s working against Racine.
Racine’s poll was conducted by veteran DC pollster Ron Lester from October 19 to 20. It surveyed 413 likely voters.
What’s most telling about that poll is that Racine doubled his numbers from a poll he conducted last month, and that the new survey showed support among black and white voters.
Racine has benefited from endorsements by the Washington Post and the weekly Northwest Current. His campaign coffers are far deeper than the other four candidates, thanks to $450,000 Racine loaned to his campaign.
But with less than two weeks remaining, the race is far from over. The majority of voters are undecided, and many are unaware of the election itself. The Washington City Paper–Kojo Nnamdi Show poll found 38 percent still making up their minds.
Is Rankin worried about the undecided voters?
“Not at this moment,” he says. “We are going to reach them by mail and radio. We are getting to them faster than other people.”