Poll Shows Wide Open Race in Mayoral Primary

    An independent poll released Tuesday shows a wide open race in the Democratic primary for mayor of Baltimore.

    Former prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah topped the field ever so slightly, with just over 18% of the vote — but four candidates were within the poll’s large 6-point margin of error, and others appeared to be within striking distance.

    One thing was abundantly clear: Crime was far and away the voters’ No. 1 concern heading into the April 28 primary, with 65% of poll respondents citing the violence wracking the city as their top issue as they consider the candidates. That may be boosting Vignarajah, who has been highlighting his crime-fighting proposals on the campaign trail.

    The survey of 319 likely Democratic primary voters was taken Dec. 23-Jan. 3 for Fox 45 in Baltimore by Gonzales Survey & Media Research, an Annapolis firm.

    After Vignarajah, 18% of poll respondents said they’d vote for City Council President Brandon M. Scott, followed by 16% for former mayor Sheila Dixon, 15% for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, 11% for former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith, and 8% for state Sen. Mary L. Washington. Two percent said they would go with someone else, while 12% were undecided.

    Here is some of pollster Patrick Gonzales’ analysis: “The April primary could end up being a generational clash within the electorate. Former prosecutor Vignarajah captures a plurality of voters 60 and older, while current council president Scott captures nearly twice the vote of those under 40. Vignarajah leads almost 3-to-1 among white voters.

    “Dixon, the former mayor who ran a creditable campaign 4 years ago, leads among women at this point, but her base appears to be shrinking and she is facing an electorate looking for change, real change.

    “Young, the current mayor who ascended to office after Catherine Pugh’s resignation last year, is in the hot seat, not the catbird seat. In politics, being the incumbent is an advantage…except when it’s not. And when it’s not is when
    voters are disgusted with the status quo.

    “Only 29% of voters say they trust Young to run Baltimore. In no voter subgroup does trust in Young to run the city hit forty percent. For incumbent Young, the most foreboding result in this poll, perhaps, is that only 8% of undecided voters say they trust him to run Baltimore City.

    “T.J Smith, a former police spokesman, and Mary Washington, a current state senator, are, by no means, out of this race.”

    It’s clear that Baltimore voters entered the new year in a gloomy mood. Almost two-thirds of voters picked crime as the No. 1 challenge facing the city, followed by political corruption (16%), education (12%), and property taxes (4%).

    Only 19% of poll respondents said they believe the city is moving in the right direction, while 77% said they do not have trust and confidence in the politicians running city government and city schools.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.