By Josh Kurtz
A recent poll conducted for state Del. Cory McCray shows the freshman lawmaker “is strongly positioned for an upset” if he takes on six-term Sen. Nathaniel McFadden in the 45th district Democratic primary next June.
The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, headed by veteran Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, showed McFadden with a sizable lead in the East Baltimore district, based in part on his greater name recognition. But when positive messages about both candidates were read to the survey respondents, McCray vaulted ahead.
“This level of movement is rare, and is a consequence not only of the incumbent’s tenuous hold on the district, but also the strong appeal of McCray’s profile and message,” the polling firm wrote.
Even then, the pollsters warn, McCray will need to be adequately funded to get his message out and take advantage of the good will he has built up in the community.
In the initial head-to-head between the lawmakers, McFadden led McCray, 35 percent to 20 percent. Del. Cheryl Glenn (D), whose name was also offered in the poll, took 8 percent, while 37 percent of voters were undecided.
McFadden was viewed favorably by 58 percent of voters and unfavorably by 12 percent. McCray’s favorable-unfavorable ratings were 42 percent to 3 percent.
The poll of 277 likely Democratic primary voters, taken June 5-11, had a 6-point margin of error.
The pollsters then offered survey respondents information about McFadden and McCray. Of McFadden, who is 70 years old, they said: “State Senator Nathaniel McFadden is a husband, father, and grandfather, who has been a leader for our community for over twenty years. As a former teacher and principal in Baltimore Public Schools, Senator McFadden entered public service because he knows that good education, safe communities, and good jobs are the best path to a bright future for our children and our city. Since then, he has never stopped fighting for these principles. Senator McFadden has also sponsored landmark legislation to invest millions every year from Maryland casino profits into expanded financing for small, minority and women-owned businesses. And he is persistent in holding public officials and corporate recipients of public funding accountable for providing benefits to his East Baltimore constituents. We can trust Nathaniel to keep fighting for our community.”
Of McCray, who is 34, the pollsters read: “State Delegate Cory McCray is a lifelong Baltimorean who understands firsthand the challenges that our communities face. After heading down the wrong path as a teenager, Cory made the decision to turn his life around, working his way through apprenticeship training and community college. Now, in addition to being a public servant, husband and proud father of four, Cory is also a union electrician, community organizer, and small business owner. Cory’s career is fueled by hard work and a commitment to give back to our community. But we haven’t elected a new State Senator in over twenty years. In that time crime, poverty, and joblessness have only gotten worse in Northeast and East Baltimore. We deserve a leader who understands we must act with urgency. Cory McCray is the change we need.”
After those two statements were read, the voters’ sentiments shifted dramatically. McCray jumped to 53 percent while McFadden came in at 31 percent. Glenn, whose biography was not offered to the voters, fell to 2 percent, while 14 percent remained undecided.
“The survey data underscores Cory McCray’s ability to make rapid gains with strong voter outreach and paid media efforts, and — in stark contrast to McFadden — the real appeal of McCray’s message of change, bolstered by his deeply-rooted connections to the community and his own compelling personal story,” the pollsters wrote. “McCray is well positioned to win the Democratic Primary for State Senate, provided his campaign has the resources to mount a vigorous communications effort to define himself and the stakes of this race.”
Through mid-January, McCray was far ahead in the money chase, banking $82,000 to the incumbent’s $14,000.