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Poll: Jax mayoral, sheriff races tight, within margin of error

With four weeks to go in the Jacksonville mayoral race between Lenny Curry and Alvin Brown, the latest poll results show the candidates within the margin of error.

The poll was conducted this past week by a statewide business organization and given to FloridaPolitics.com. It sampled 400 registered voters and had a 4.9 percent margin of error.

The poll has the Democratic incumbent up 3 percent – 44 to 41 percent — against his GOP challenger. The deluge of negative advertising and messaging from both sides has not appreciably affected either candidate’s numbers. The poll found both Brown and Curry “right side up on their image” with fairly low negatives for this late in the race.

Overall, the poll indicates Brown has a small lead with soft support, which could be overcome if Curry effectively makes plays to boost GOP support or is able to swing more former Bill Bishop supporters. Right now, Curry is up against Brown with Bishop voters from the First Election, 39-36 percent, with the balance undecided. That’s despite well-publicized defections from the Bishop campaign team to the Brown campaign, a number that suggests that although some endorsements might matter, those of campaign staff almost certainly don’t.

Brown holds a commanding lead now with people from no major party: 40-24 percent for Curry, with a full 36 percent undecided. The pollster suggests that Curry’s outreach to the social conservative wing has hurt him with independents. It will be interesting to see how aggressively Curry brands himself as a conservative heading into early voting and the debates with the mayor.

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Despite the conservative branding, Curry shows signs of an enthusiasm gap among GOP voters, similar to the one that hurt Mike Hogan four years ago. Curry’s favorability with Republicans is just 73 percent, compared with Alvin Brown’s 83 percent favorability with Democrats.

Equally interesting: Brown and Curry both have favorability ratings in the 30s with the other party: Brown is at 39 percent with Republicans, Curry at 32 percent with Democrats. Brown, however, has a 51 percent favorability rating with white voters, while Curry has just a 25 percent favorability rating with black voters. The biggest concern for Curry strategists: the Republican’s 28 percent favorability rating with independents, a net -3 favorability with that group.

As previous polling has shown, Curry dominates with older voters, leading with the 65+ demographic 50-33 percent. The 50-69-year-olds break almost evenly, with Brown up 43-42 percent. Those two groups are expected to be two-thirds of the electorate.

Geographically, there are no real surprises. Brown is up on the Westside and Downtown, while Curry holds comfortable leads out toward the Beaches and in the Beaches themselves. Curry’s lead in Mandarin is within the margin of error, but that could be a function of small sample size, according to the pollster.

The mayor is underwater in terms of job approval, 44 percent to 54 percent. Except among Democrats and blacks, Brown’s job approval numbers suffer with independent voters, white voters, and those over the age of 65.

To win, Brown will want to boost black residents’ turnout, and it’s possible he will do that, with active city council races in Districts 7 and 8, two out of three at-large races with at least one black candidate, and an black candidate running for sheriff. That said, there is bad news in the sheriff’s race for the Democrats.

Mike Williams has closed the gap, which was at 8 points in the last poll conducted on this race, to just 4 points. That suggests the Republicans are successfully making the case that Williams’ no-nonsense approach and wealth of administrative experience overshadows what Ken Jefferson brings to the table.

It will be interesting to see how both campaigns use the poll results. Can Curry move to the center without alienating social conservatives? Can Brown move on an issue like the HRO and still maintain enthusiastic black voter support in the faith-based community? Will debates matter? Will national endorsements move the needle?

It seems, based on this poll, that the Curry campaign has made the case that Jacksonville may benefit from a new mayor. The sell now is whether or not that new mayor should be him.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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