Latest poll of Jax mayoral race: Alvin Brown 44%, Lenny Curry 41%

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With just four weeks to go in the Jacksonville mayoral race between Lenny Curry and Alvin Brown, the latest poll results show the issues within the margin of error, according to a poll conducted by a statewide business organization and shared with FloridaPolitics.com.

The poll, conducted in the last week with a sample size of 400 and a 4.9 percent margin of error, has the Democratic incumbent up 3 percent (44-41 percent) against his GOP challenger. The deluge of negative advertising and messaging from both sides has not appreciably affected either candidate’s numbers, which find both Brown and Curry “right side up on their image” with fairly low negatives for this late in the race.

Overall, the poll indicates that Brown has a small lead with soft support, which could be overcome if Curry effectively makes plays to boost GOP support or is able to swing more former Bill Bishop supporters. Right now, Curry is up against Brown with Bishop voters from the first election, 39-36 percent, with the balance undecided. This is despite well-publicized defections of the Bishop campaign team to the Brown campaign, a number which suggests that some endorsements might matter, but those of campaign staff almost certainly don’t.

Brown holds a commanding lead right now with people from no major party: 40-24 percent, with a full 36 percent undecided. The pollster suggests that Curry’s outreach to the social conservative wing has hurt him with independents; it will be interesting to see how aggressively Curry brands himself as a conservative as we head up toward Early Voting and the debates with the mayor.

Interestingly, despite the conservative branding, Curry shows signs of an enthusiasm gap among GOP voters, similar to that which hurt Mike Hogan four years prior. Curry’s favorability with Republicans is just 73 percent, comparing unfavorably with Alvin Brown’s 83 percent favorability with Democrats.

Equally interesting: Brown and Curry both have favorability ratings in the 30s with the other party; Brown at 39 percent with Republicans, Curry at 32 percent with Democrats. Brown, however, has a 51 percent favorability rating with white voters, while Curry has just a 25 percent favorability rating with African- American voters. The biggest concern for Curry strategists: the Republican’s 28 percent favorability rating with Independents, a net -3 favorability with that group.

As previous polling has shown, Curry dominates with older voters, leading with the 65+ demographic 50-33 percent. The 50-69-year-olds break almost evenly, with Brown up 43-42 percent. Those two groups are expected to be ⅔ of the electorate.

Geographically, there are no real surprises. Brown is up on the Westside and Downtown, while Curry holds comfortable leads out toward the Beaches and in the Beaches themselves. Curry’s lead in Mandarin is within the margin of error, but that could be a function of small sample size, according to the pollster.

The mayor is underwater in terms of job approval, 44 percent-54 percent. Except among Democrats and African Americans, Brown’s job approval numbers suffer with Independent voters, white voters, and those over the age of 65.

To win, Brown will want to boost African-American turnout, and it is possible he will do that, with active Council races in Districts 7 and 8, 2 out of 3 At Large races with at least one black candidate, and an African American running for sheriff. That said, there is bad news in the sheriff’s race for the Democrats.

Mike Williams has closed the gap, which was at 8 points in the last poll conducted on this race, to just 4 points. This suggests that the Republicans are successfully making the case that Williams’ no-nonsense approach and wealth of administrative experience overshadows what Ken Jefferson brings to the table.

It will be interesting to see how both campaigns use these results. Can Lenny Curry move to the center without alienating social conservatives? Can Alvin Brown move on an issue like the HRO and still maintain enthusiastic African-American support in the faith-based community? Will debates matter? Will national endorsements move the needle?

It seems, based on this poll, that the Curry campaign has made the case that Jacksonville may benefit from a new mayor. The sell now is whether or not that new mayor should be him.

A.G. Gancarski has written a weekly column for Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly since 2003. His writings on politics, culture, and sport have appeared in the Washington Times, the Daily Caller, and the American Conservative. His radio and TV appearances include frequent contributions to WJCT-FM (Jacksonville’s Public Radio station); additionally, he has been a guest on Huff Post Live and the Savage Nation radio show. Gancarski can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.