Four days before the Democratic primary, which will likely determine D.C.’s next mayor, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray maintains a sizable lead in the polls over incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Gray’s lead, however, has lessened in the past weeks. A poll released by The Washington Post on Aug. 29 gave Gray a 13-point lead among Democratic voters and a 17-point lead among those likely to vote. His lead dropped to just 11 points in a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling just three days later. The latest results from a Clarus Research Group poll on Tuesday has Gray leading by seven points among likely voters.
D.C. upholds a closed primary system, meaning voters must be registered Democrats before the election in order to vote. This means Fenty must focus on rallying more supporters than Gray, rather than recruiting new voters.
“Election Day turnout is still the key factor – and the best remaining hope for the mayor’s re-election campaign,” said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group, in a press release.
Demographics remain key in determining voter preference. Gray leads 62 to 17 percent among black voters; Fenty leads 68 to 22 percent among white voters.
“Because voters are sharply divided by race,” Faucheux said in the press release, “Election Day voter turnout among each voter group is the No. 1 factor that will determine the winner.”
Gray also holds an advantage over Fenty in terms of personal favorability rating – 60 to 49 percent, according to Clarus. Fenty’s first term focused on reforming the public school system and enhancing government efficiency and accountability. He enjoyed success with last week’s announcement that D.C. was one of the winners of Race to the Top, Obama’s education program that provides competitive grants to states to improve public education. The policies of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee have also received heavy criticism, however.
any poorer voters also feel alienated by Fenty, according to the Washington City Paper. In contrast, Gray has a higher favorability, but is also seen as too bureaucratic. Critics have come forward to comment on his lack of initiative in changing the Department of Human Services, which he ran in the early 1990s.
D.C.’s Democratic primary is generally regarded as the de facto mayoral election in a city that is heavily Democratic. Other Democratic candidates are Leo Alexander, Sulaimon Brown and Ernest Johnson – but Fenty and Gray are the clear frontrunners, with the other candidates receiving a combined 3 percent in Tuesday’s Clarus poll.
No Republicans have filed a candidacy in the general election for mayor. Five independents have declared their candidacy, including D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown. There is also one candidacy from the Socialist Workers Party and one from the Statehood Green party. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 2.