Politics & Government

Roberts campaign releases poll showing she’s ahead in primary. Will lead last?

Mayoral debate covers array of issues

The Black Political Caucus hosted a mayoral debate in May at Reeder Memorial Baptist Church. Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and state Sen. Joel Ford spoke about several topics to a full house of voters.
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The Black Political Caucus hosted a mayoral debate in May at Reeder Memorial Baptist Church. Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and state Sen. Joel Ford spoke about several topics to a full house of voters.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts’ campaign released a poll Tuesday that shows she is ahead of her two Democratic primary challengers, though many voters are undecided.

The poll of 400 likely primary voters, conducted by Lake Research Partners of Washington D.C., found that Roberts has support of 35 percent of primary voters. Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles is next with 21 percent and State Sen. Joel Ford has 15 percent. The primary is Sept. 12.

Roberts is finishing her first term as mayor. She led the city’s effort to extend legal protections to the LGBT community in 2016, a move that sparked the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass House Bill 2, which nullified the city’s ordinance. In September, she faced intense national scrutiny after the Keith Lamont Scott protests and riots, and said the city needed to be more transparent and should have released body camera and dash camera footage of the shooting earlier.

Despite those two controversial issues, the poll found Roberts with a high approval rating among primary voters. The Lake poll found that 64 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of her, while 25 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

The Roberts campaign did not release detailed information about the poll, including the favorability ratings of Lyles and Ford. It said it did not ask questions about the general election and Republican City Council member Kenny Smith, who is running for mayor.

Earlier this year, Lyles and Ford discussed the possibility of one of them dropping out to consolidate the field against Roberts. Both Lyles and Ford are African-American, and the city’s Democratic voters are about two-thirds black.

Lyles said it’s not surprising that Roberts is ahead because she has greater name recognition as mayor. She said she will “work as hard as she can” to win the election.

Ford said “everyone has their numbers and we are working on our plan.”

But Lyles and Ford have not said they intend to drop out. Roberts campaign manager Sam Spencer said the Lake poll did not ask voters about hypothetical match-ups of Roberts against just Ford or against just Lyles.

While Roberts has a 14-point lead overall, the poll said that lead holds among African-American voters, though smaller at 7 points.

Despite Ford being in third place, Roberts and Ford have been swiping at each other since April. As a member of the General Assembly, Ford has positioned himself as an outsider, criticizing some of the decisions of Roberts and City Council.

Roberts has criticized Ford for some of his votes in the General Assembly, including his support for a law that says only a judge can release police body and dash camera footage.

Lake Research Partners worked for Roberts during her failed 2012 congressional campaign and her successful 2015 mayoral campaign.

At the this point in the 2015 mayor’s race, Roberts had 30 percent of the vote, according to a Lake poll. Dan Clodfelter, who was then the mayor, had 16 percent and former council member Michael Barnes had 16 percent. Former council member David Howard had 11 percent.

In that race, Howard made a late surge, but couldn’t crack the run-off between Roberts and Clodfelter.

Lake Research Partners said it conducted the poll between June 1-4. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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