IN A MAYOR'S RACE, money talks.
(For all of today's coverage visit The Next Mayor)
Millionaire mayoral candidate Tom Knox has pulled into the lead in the latest Daily News/Keystone poll, which shows former front-runner U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady battling for second place.
The poll of registered Democrats showed Knox in first with 24 percent, Fattah following with 17 percent, Brady at 16 percent, former Councilman Michael Nutter with 12 percent and state Rep. Dwight Evans with 10 percent. The margin of error was 5 percent.
Still, 21 percent of voters remain undecided about whom they'll vote for in the May 15 Democratic primary, suggesting that there are a lot of votes up for grabs.
Poll director G. Terry Madonna of Franklin & Marshall College noted that Knox - a former insurance executive who has spent millions on television advertising - has not gained much ground since the last survey in January, while Fattah has declined by 9 percent.
"Knox has remained pretty much where he is," Madonna said. "Chaka has dropped and Brady has gone up. Brady has picked up voters at Chaka's expense."
Brady has been running television ads for almost two months. With Evans and Nutter also on the air, Fattah is the only candidate not on TV. According to the poll, 85 percent of voters have seen candidates' TV ads.
"Television is coming to totally dominate this campaign," Madonna said.
Knox holds a distinct advantage because he can freely spend his personal fortune on costly television time, while the other candidates' fundraising has been curtailed by the city's new limits on contributions.
There also may be other reasons for Fattah's drop besides his lack of TV advertising. Madonna said that Fattah's favorable ratings also have declined significantly since January. Then he was viewed favorably by 49 percent of voters; in this poll only 34 percent gave him a favorable rating.
The reports last week over Fattah's refusal to release his income-tax reports to the media may have hurt his popularity, Madonna said.
"I think it's probably something to do with the stories about the income tax," Madonna said. "I think it's probably the fact that he's not getting much air time. People may end up getting a sense that they don't know who he is."
Voters were also asked if they had heard about the court hearing on removing Brady from the ballot because he had not disclosed his city pension on his financial forms.
Seventy-nine percent of those polled knew about the story and 36 percent of them thought Brady should be removed from the ballot while 45 percent did not.
According to Madonna, that 36 percent could spell trouble for Brady.
"That may indicate some growth problems for Brady," Madonna said.
But the large pool of undecided voters means the race could still belong to any of the candidates, although Madonna noted that Evans and Nutter need to move up soon to be competitive.
"They have to show some movement," he said. "They have to move into the pack and make this race closer."
Among black voters, Fattah still leads with 25 percent of the vote. Evans and Knox both had 17 percent, Nutter had 9 percent and Brady 8 percent. Another 24 percent were still undecided.
Knox came in first among white voters with 31 percent, followed by Brady with 23 percent, Nutter with 16 percent, Fattah with 8 percent and Evans with 3 percent. Eighteen percent of the white vote was still undecided.
Madonna said researchers had tried to gauge how voter turnout could affect the candidates.
According to their data, a low turnout would benefit Knox, a medium turnout would make it tight among the top three and a large turnout would help Brady.
The poll also shows that Mayor Street remains unpopular with voters, with a 25 percent favorable rating and 57 percent unfavorable. *