A new poll in the topsy-turvy mayoral race has former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith as the front-runner to win the Democratic primary.
Smith, a Baltimore native who started his career in law enforcement as an officer in the Anne Arundel County Police Department, received 22 percent of support. He led former Mayor Sheila Dixon by four points.
City Council President Brandon Scott trailed her (15 percent), and he was followed by former federal prosecutor and Deputy Attorney General of Maryland Thiru Vignarajah (12 percent), former U.S. Treasury Department official in the Obama administration and T. Rowe Price executive Mary Miller (9 percent) and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (7 percent).
Another 17 candidates split 2 percent of the vote, according to the poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, while 15 percent of respondents said they remain undecided.
On Twitter, Smith said he was appreciative of the support but wanted to focus on getting through the coronavirus pandemic.
We have a long way to go, but I’m deeply appreciative. Please stay safe everyone. We have a pandemic to work through, but still a host of other local issues, too. #grateful. https://t.co/HLhnObf9I0 https://t.co/Dnua59Gw2S
— T.J. Smith (@TJSmithBmore) March 24, 2020
According to the poll, Smith is performing well with two of the city’s biggest voting blocs, African-American women and residents older than 50. And Mason-Dixon said he has an opportunity to grow his base, with only 71 percent name recognition in the field. Forty-two percent of respondents said they viewed him favorably, while 8 percent did not.
While the poll has Dixon in second, the polling firm said Scott is in the best position to challenge for the lead because the former mayor, who was convicted for embezzlement, has high unfavorability numbers. Additionally, Scott has strong support from all genders, races and age groups.
Among the city’s black population, who make up more than 60 percent of the electorate, Smith received 27 percent support, followed by Dixon at 24 percent and Scott at 16 percent. No other candidate received double digits.
White voters have flocked to Vignarajah and Miller, who are separated by a point with 23 percent support and 22 percent support, respectively. Smith received 15 percent of their vote, and Scott received 13 percent. Only 6 percent of white voters backed Dixon.
Brad Coker, CEO and managing director of Mason-Dixon, said he added a question about the mayoral race to a poll he was conducting on COVID-19 for a company in the healthcare industry.
Coker said he was not aware of any connections between the healthcare company and a particular campaign, and since the additional work that went into the question on the mayoral race was paid for by Mason-Dixon, the results are proprietary to the polling firm.
But as residents following the race know, the only clarity derived from polling thus far is that the state of the race is unclear. Dixon, Vignarajah, Scott and now Smith have all had at least a share of the lead, and previous margins of errors of 5 and 6 percent mean at least a handful of candidates have a statistical shot.
For today’s poll, Mason-Dixon surveyed 400 registered Democratic voters from March 16-18. There’s a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percent.
In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Larry Hogan delayed the primary election until June 2.
This story has been updated.
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