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Poll says Abraham leads mayor's race

Democratic mayoral candidate Lynne M. Abraham may not be on the air yet, but she is in the lead. Or so says a recent poll conducted for her.

 Democratic mayoral candidate Lynne M. Abraham may not be on the air yet, but she is in the lead. Or so says a recent poll conducted for her.

The poll, according to a memo from the campaign's pollster provided to The Inquirer, has the former district attorney leading the field with 30 percent of respondents saying they would choose her if Philadelphia's May 19 Democratic primary "were held today."

Jim Kenney and State Sen. Anthony H. Williams were each favored by 14 percent of respondents. Nelson Diaz was at 6 percent, T. Milton Street at 5, and Doug Oliver at 2.

The undecided vote loomed large, however, at 29 percent.

"The one thing that is important is I have strength upon which to build," Abraham said, "and the public recognizes my strength already. This is just going to reinforce it."

An earlier survey conducted for Abraham in October, before she entered the race, put her support at 31 percent, with 36 percent undecided.

Neither set of results is unexpected, given that Abraham's is the best-known name in the race, largely due to her having served as district attorney for 19 years. Also a limited television ad campaign for Kenney began just days before the survey, hardly enough time to alter voter opinions. The Williams campaign subsequently began airing ads. Abraham still has no TV presence.

"There is nothing surprising here," said Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia media consultant not affiliated with any of the candidates. "This poll could have been taken the last time she ran for district attorney. That said, I think this is a very credible snapshot of where we are."

The poll was taken March 14-17, soon after the March 12 launch of ads touting Kenney. It was conducted by the Mellman Group, a Washington firm with national clients.

The survey included 500 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The poll had Abraham ahead even when the race of those surveyed was taken into account. Among African American voters, for instance, she drew 24 percent compared with Williams' 22 and Kenney's 7. (The campaign did not list how the others fared.)

That support could be telling in a campaign in which Williams, as the leading African American candidate, hopes to draw heavily from the black community for support.

Among whites, Abraham drew 39 percent, Kenney 26, and Williams 4.

The poll showed Abraham with the highest favorable rating (59 percent), followed by Williams (38), Kenney (37), Diaz (26), Street (25), and Oliver (14).

Ceisler saw the poll and its release to the media as part of a concerted effort by Abraham to rally support even as her key competitors, Williams and Kenney, have been dominating the news with endorsements and ads.

"This is a position poll to show potential donors and the media that her candidacy is credible," he said, "and, at this point, she is the front-runner."