Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor's Race Poll Provides Gossip Points

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor's Race Poll Provides Gossip Points

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew I. Pinzur, Times-Union staff writer

This long before Jacksonville's 1995 mayoral race, practically no one had heard of John Delaney. As late as three months before the vote, he was polling below 5 percent. By the April election he was in the 30s, and by the runoff he had battled to a slim majority.

So none of the candidates to replace the popular two-term mayor are especially concerned with the horse-race numbers from a sweeping Republican Party poll conducted last week.

But with a growing slate of candidates for 2003, early polls could direct money and support to frontrunners and squeeze others out of the race.

"It is very early for favorables and unfavorables, but what kind of move do [candidates] need to make to remain attractive to fundraisers without peaking too early?" said Matt Corrigan, a political science professor at the University of North Florida who studies political polling. "You don't want to peak now, but you want to remain competitive, and that's a tough balance to maintain for nine or 10 months."

Not surprisingly, leaders who have already held elective office are better-known. Their opponents, including such well-organized candidates as Gate Petroleum executive John Peyton and former city economic development chief Mike Weinstein, have amassed plenty of cash and retained the most sought-after consultants but have yet to use any of those resources to spread their name or message.

"Polls at this stage of the game, except for issue areas and the ability to measure your opposition, are meaningless," said Tom Slade, chairman of the Duval GOP. "Nobody has yet put a bullet in a gun and pulled a trigger."

Which has not stopped local pundits from gossiping about the poll's results. More than 600 registered voters were surveyed, leaving a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was not limited to Republicans, and organizers think it is a reliable benchmark for the Duval County electorate.

Because so many candidates are in or near the race -- seven have opened accounts and at least four or five more viable candidates are mulling a run -- analysts said major donors and endorsements will gravitate toward campaigns with strong poll numbers. …

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