The campaign of Democratic candidate Joseph Kopser released its own internal poll a day after a poll conducted for the Elliott McFadden campaign showed McFadden, an Austin nonprofit executive, leading the field. The Kopser internal poll shows the Austin tech entrepreneur tied with Austin bookstore owner Derrick Crowe atop the four-candidate field “after voters hear positive profiles for each of the candidates” and Kopser taking a “comfortable 29-point lead” when voters “learn more about his policy positions.” Even at that point, 30% of respondents were still undecided, but Kopser’s 43% would almost certainly put him in first place.
Interestingly, the poll provides information on the “initial ask,” which is posed before any information is given to respondents about any of the candidates. More than three out of four respondents were undecided at that initial ask, which is probably more indicative of the state of the race than the results of any “informed” question. None of the four Democratic candidates had name IDs above 10%. Kopser polled last in terms of initial support and name ID, which is also interesting for a publicly released internal poll (A sponsoring candidate is typically ahead, or “closing the gap” if behind in publicly released internal polls.).
The Global Strategy Group poll of 500 “likely Democratic primary voters” was in the field December 13-18. The stated margin of error is ±4.4%. The McFadden poll 510 “likely Democratic primary voters” was conducted on December 27.
Both polls showed Austin pastor Mary Wilson – the only woman in the Democratic field – in a runoff position, at least at some point. In Kopser’s poll, Wilson was the only candidate polling over 10% at the “initial ask,” although she was within the margin of error of her rivals. In McFadden’s poll, Wilson was second at 20%, presumably within the margin of error of leader McFadden, after respondents were “informed” about the candidate(s). Incidentally, Wilson’s Facebook campaign page also touted McFadden’s poll results. “Would you say that makes me a ‘Major’ candidate?” she asked rhetorically. “My campaign is polling well.”
All four candidates have been in the race since the spring, long before U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) announced his retirement. Kopser announced he was “seriously considering challenging” Smith in late March, and a CrowdPAC fundraising page indicated pledges of nearly $65K. By April, the field of Democratic challengers had grown to around 10 and included the four currently in the race: Crowe, Kopser, McFadden and Austin pastor Mary Wilson. Kopser formally entered the race in May. He has maintained a significant advantage in campaign contributions ($372K) and expenditures ($195K), at least as of September 30. At that time, Wilson was last of the four in terms of campaign contributions ($8K) and expenditures ($6K).
Since 2006, 77% of open-seat candidates with the most campaign contributions have either won outright or advanced to a runoff. The odds increase to 85% if the candidate also leads the field in expenditures. In a race where all the candidates’ name IDs poll in the high single digits and within the margin of error of each other, a significant advantage in campaign resources is a means to increasing one’s positives relative to one’s rivals.
Kopser has been endorsed by former Land Comm. Garry Mauro (D), Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff (D), the Lone Star Project PAC, former Bill Clinton strategist Paul Begala and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip. McFadden has been endorsed by about two dozen current and former elected officials, including Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. Crowe has been endorsed by the U.T. chapter of University Democrats, the Circle D Democrats and the Bernie Sanders-inspired Our Revolution Texas. Wilson’s web site does not appear to include a list of endorsements.
We will follow up on this race after campaign finance reports post shortly after the end of the month. The winner of this primary faces the winner of the 18-way Republican primary, a Libertarian nominee and up to three independent candidates in November.
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