JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Republican incumbent Lenny Curry has a solid lead over three challengers in next month's mayoral election, with Anna Lopez Brosche a distant second, according to a poll released Wednesday morning by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab.
If his margin holds, Curry could win 50 percent of the vote in Jacksonville's March 19 election and win re-election without a runoff.
Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, said the margin of Curry's lead over Brosche is somewhat surprising for those following the "inside baseball" of the campaign.
"There has been a lot of talk about how she's a player in the game and how she's going to make this big move and challenge the mayor, and she's barely registering on voters' minds," Binder said. "Curry, if these numbers hold and he maybe picks up some of the undecideds, he’s going to cruise to victory in March and it won’t even make it 'til May."
Among Democrats, 25 percent indicate they plan to vote for Curry, 25 percent for Brosche, 12 percent for Allen and 2 percent for Hill. Thirty-two percent of Democratic likely voters don’t know for whom they’ll cast their vote. Of Republican likely voters, 78 percent say they will vote for Curry, while only 4 percent indicate they’ll vote for Brosche, 4 percent for Hill and 1 percent for Allen. Among Republicans, 13 percent said they don’t know who they will vote for.
The poll also found that the biggest concern for Jacksonville voters is crime. Of likely voters, 62 percent said it will affect their pick in the upcoming election. The poll comes after a deadly weekend where six people were killed over a four-day span. The wave of violence is a major topic for those running in the upcoming election.
The next most important issue in the race is education, with 13 percent of voters saying it will impact their decision. Of likely voters who said education is the most important issue, 51 percent plan to vote for Curry and 14 percent plan to vote for Brosche.
What do you think is the most important issue facing Jacksonville today?
“The election is upon us, absentee ballots have been mailed out and early voting begins in less than two weeks,” Binder said. “It is very late in the game to dramatically change the narrative of these races.”
UNF also asked likely voters about many of the other races on the ballot next month, finding strong support for incumbent sheriff and other constitutional officers.
Not having runoff elections for the major races in May could drastically affect turnout, according to Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan.
"History shows if the mayor and the big ticket items are no longer on the ballot for the general election it drops like a rock," Hogan said. "I think it was in 1991 it went from the high twenties to 16 percent in the general election. And it could have an impact on what we do in May absolutely."
There's also a high level of uncertainty in the citywide City Council races where there is no incumbent.
Hogan said if the council at-large races are also decided in the first round, the supervisor of elections office won’t open all the precincts in May.
Other citywide races