Nutter gains ground on Knox

The former councilman trails the front-runner by 2 percentage points in a new poll. Undecided: 32%.

A new poll suggests that the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination is tightening, and that former City Councilman Michael Nutter has made the biggest gains.

The survey, by Susquehanna Polling & Research of Harrisburg, gives the largest percentage of the Democratic vote, 20 percent, to the perceived front-runner, businessman Tom Knox.

But Nutter had 18 percent, placing him in what pollster James Lee called "a virtual statistical tie" with Knox. U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah had 14 percent in the poll, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady 9 percent, and State Rep. Dwight Evans 7.

The undecided vote was put at 32 percent - an extraordinarily high figure considering that the May 15 primary is just 21/2 weeks away.

The poll of 450 likely voters was paid for by Pennsylvanians for Effective Government, a business group. It was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.62 percentage points.

An earlier Susquehanna survey, conducted in March, had Knox leading at 22 percent, followed by Fattah at 17, Brady 13, Nutter 12 and Evans 10.

In a memorandum accompanying the results, pollster Lee said two trends were notable.

One, he said, was that Nutter appeared to do very well among white Democrats, leading Knox there by a slim margin, but still polled poorly among blacks.

The other was the high undecided vote - especially among African Americans.

In other campaign news yesterday, Nutter said at an event on Ridge Avenue in the Strawberry Mansion section that he would create a fund to revitalize small business along neighborhood commercial corridors.

As an example of what can be done, he cited the eight-year, public-private effort that led to the recent ground-breaking for the new Park West Town Center, a shopping area in the West Parkside section of Nutter's former councilmanic district.

"There's no reason why this great neighborhood in Strawberry Mansion couldn't benefit from the same development principles," he said.


Contact senior writer Larry Eichel

at 215-854-2415 or leichel@phillynews.com.