A new poll shows that Jacksonville voters casting their ballots later this month should expect a May runoff in the mayoral election.
A poll of likely voters from the Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida (UNF) finds Mayor Alvin Brown, the first Democrat to win a mayoral election in Jacksonville since Ed Austin back in 1991, out front with 37 percent followed by former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry with 25 percent. Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop, also a Republican, garners 11 percent while Omega Allen, who is running with no party affiliation, takes 2 percent.
But a quarter of those surveyed -- 25 percent -- remain on the sidelines even as early voting starts later this week for the first round of the mayoral election on March 24. Assuming no candidate gets a majority in the first round, a runoff will be held on May 19.
That puts Curry in contention for the runoff, especially as almost half of Bishop and Allen supporters -- 48 percent -- say he is their second choice while only 31 percent say that about Brown.
Brown is above water in the poll with 55 percent approving of him while 34 percent of those surveyed disapprove of him. But Brown does worse when asked if he is a strong leader, with 44 percent thinking he is and 41 percent saying he isnt. Less than a quarter -- 22 percent -- think Brown cares about people like them while 63 percent think he does.
Voters are divided on how they see Brown, with 29 percent thinking he is a moderate, 27 percent saying he is slightly liberal, 16 percent viewing him as very liberal, 9 percent saying he is slightly conservative and 5 percent pegging him as very conservative.
Jacksonville voters remain largely in the dark on Curry. While 23 percent of those surveyed think Curry is a strong leader and 15 percent say he isnt, 62 percent aren't sure. Asked if Curry cares about people like them, 36 percent say he does, 15 percent say he doesnt but 49 percent arent sure.
Currys politics are also unknown to many voters with 47 percent not sure how to place him on the ideological spectrum. Those who know about Curry see him as right-of-center, with 22 percent saying he is very conservative and 16 percent thinking he is slightly conservative. While 9 percent view him as a moderate, 3 percent see him as slightly liberal and the same percentage think he is very liberal.
Voters are even more in the dark on Bishop, with 66 percent of them not sure of what his politics are while 13 percent see him as a moderate, 10 percent think he is slightly conservative, 5 percent view him as very conservative, 4 percent think he is slightly liberal and 2 percent consider him very liberal.
The poll also shows the contest to replace Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford is headed to a runoff. Democrat Ken Jefferson is ahead with 24 percent followed by Republican Mike Williams with 16 percent. Jimmy Holderfield takes third with 10 percent followed by fellow Republican Jay Farhat with 7 percent. Democrat Tony Cummings and Republican Rob Schoonover garner 4 percent each while Republican Lonnie McDonald lags behind with 2 percent. More than a third of those surveyed -- 34 percent -- remain undecided.
The poll of 546 likely voters in Duval County was taken from Feb. 23-27 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN