- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Challenger Vincent C. Gray holds a slim lead over incumbent Adrian M. Fenty with less than a month to go before Washington’s Democratic primary race for mayor, according to poll figures released Wednesday.

A Clarus poll shows Mr. Gray, the D.C. Council chairman, ahead of Mr. Fenty 41 percent to 36 percent among voters who say they are “very likely to vote” in the District’s Sept. 14 primary election. Among all voters, he leads 39 percent to 36 percent for Mr. Fenty.

Gray now has the edge, but this race is far from over,” said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group, a Washington-based nonpartisan polling firm. “Election Day turnout will likely determine the winner.”

The poll contained some good news for Mr. Fenty, showing that his job approval rating has rebounded among Democrats to 49 percent from 41 percent in November.

The poll also points to a deep racial divide among city voters, with Mr. Fenty holding a 42-point lead among white voters and Mr. Gray with a 38-point lead among black voters. Mr. Gray’s favorability among black voters is 70 percent — much stronger than his 39 percent favorability among whites. Conversely, Mr. Fenty has 63 percent favorability among white voters compared to 33 percent among whites.

The results suggest that the overwhelming lead Mr. Fenty holds in fundraising has not equated to public support. The mayor has raised $4.7 million for the race, dwarfing the $1.3 million raised by Mr. Gray. Yet Mr. Gray’s 5-point lead among “very likely” voters is slightly higher than the 4-point lead he held in a November, before he announced his candidacy, in a hypothetical two-way matchup with Mr. Fenty.

Mr. Fenty is certain to double the $2.4 million he raised for the 2006 race, when he won all 143 precincts in the city’s Democratic primary after a populist campaign largely based on a record of fulfilling constituent service requests as a council member.

The results also suggest Mr. Fenty is struggling in his efforts to change perceptions that he is aloof and arrogant. The mayor’s personal favorability rating stands at 46 percent, compared to 55 percent for Mr. Gray. But his unfavorability rating is more than double Mr. Gray‘s, at 42 percent versus 20 percent.

Because the District is overwhelmingly Democratic, the winner of the primary race is often considered a lock to win the November general election.

Among other findings in the poll:

Council member Kwame R. Brown leads former council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. in the race to succeed Mr. Gray as council chairman by a 49 percent to 39 percent margin.

Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee holds a 50 percent job approval rating and a 35 percent disapproval rating. While 79 percent of white voters approve of her job performance, she has only 28 percent support among black voters.

Sixty-two percent of respondents approved of the performance of the D.C. Council, compared to 22 percent who disapprove.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is the city’s highest polling public official, with an 80 percent job approval rating.

The poll of 501 Democratic voters was conducted August 15-16 and has a 4.4 percent margin of error.

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