Quinn loses another 5%; Weiner in front

Wall Street Journal
Poll: Weiner Leaps to Front of Pack
Representative Who Resigned in Scandal Now Is Frontrunner in Mayoral Primary

June 26, 2013
by Michael Howard Saul

Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner captured the frontrunner's mantle in the race for the Democratic mayoral nomination, leading City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for the first time and running neck-and-neck with her in a potential runoff, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist poll.

Just two years after a sexting scandal derailed his career, Mr. Weiner garnered 25% of registered Democrats polled, compared with Ms. Quinn, who had 20%, marking her lowest level of support since polling of the race began. Trailing them were former Comptroller Bill Thompson, at 13%, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 10%, and city Comptroller John Liu, 8%. Fewer than one in five Democrats are undecided.

Mr. Weiner also has made gains in an all-but-certain runoff election expected to determine the Democratic nominee. In a potential runoff matchup, Ms. Quinn leads Mr. Weiner, 44% to 42%; a month ago, the margin was much wider, with Ms. Quinn winning 48% to 33%.

"Things are changing­the race has been scrambled by Weiner's candidacy," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "Weiner's candidacy has gotten more acceptable to voters since he announced, [and] Quinn's having a difficult time reversing what has been a slow but steady decline in her numbers."

The survey had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points for results involving the 689 registered Democrats polled.

For Mr. Weiner, a former congressman who represented Queens and Brooklyn for 11 years, the polls show he has had some success as he asks New Yorkers to give him a second chance. His resignation came after he lied about sending women sexually explicit photos via Twitter.

Now, nearly half of all registered voters would be willing to vote for him for mayor, and more than half of Democrats view him positively, according to the poll. The number citywide who say they wouldn't consider him at all is falling, according to the poll.

His backers are more intense than other candidates, and his support is carried across racial, gender and geographic lines. In a primary, he would beat Ms. Quinn among men and women, blacks and Latinos, and in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

"I just remember him as being a very good, vocal leader before he had that incident," said Peter Mathews, a retired city worker who lives in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. "So I think he should get a second chance. I don't think his sexual episodes have anything to do with his leadership."

The survey also demonstrates the toll that months of bruising criticism on the campaign trail have taken on Ms. Quinn, who has been pummeled over issues such as overturning term limits and her alliance with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Her level of support among Democrats has fallen nearly in half since February, when 37% of Democrats backed her. As recently as late May, Ms. Quinn led Mr. Weiner in a Marist poll 24% to 19%.

The percentage of voters who view her negatively has risen to 29% from 17% in February.

Ms. Quinn's spokesman, Mike Morey, said: "We fully expect the polls to fluctuate throughout the campaign, but we are confident that on Election Day when voters have to decide who they want to lead this city, they will choose someone who has demonstrated the ability to lead and deliver."

Asked about the poll after a forum on housing Tuesday night, Mr. Weiner said: "In many ways it doesn't change anything. We're going to keep talking about ideas for the middle class and those struggling to make it and it certainly does seem that that conversation about ideas, that people are responding to it."

An aide to Mr. Thompson said the polls would continue to change as voters learned more about the candidates. A spokeswoman for Mr. Liu said such polls under-sample newer voters who are part of Mr. Liu's base.

To win the Democratic nomination, a candidate must secure 40% of the vote, or a runoff is held between the top two vote getters. The poll showed that three candidates­Ms Quinn and Messrs. Weiner and Thompson­were all in statistical dead heats in a runoff contest.

Ms. Quinn continued to handily beat Messrs. de Blasio and Liu in potential runoffs.

In a potential runoff between Messrs. Weiner and Thompson, Mr. Thompson is leading 42% to 41%, the poll showed. Mr. Weiner would defeat both Messrs. Liu and de Blasio in a runoff.

Among registered Republicans, Joe Lhota, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, leads the pack with 28%. John Catsimatidis, a billionaire businessman, trails with 21%, followed by George McDonald, who runs a nonprofit, with 10%. Four in 10 Republicans remain undecided. The poll surveyed 123 Republicans and has a margin of error of 8.8 percentage points for those results.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Lhota said the polls showed momentum was in his favor. An aide to Mr. Catsimatidis said Mr. Catsimatidis will ultimately win. A spokesman for Mr. McDonald said the poll suggests his focus on creating jobs is resonating.

The poll showed all of the major Democrats defeating Messrs. Lhota or Catsimatidis in the general election. In one scenario, Ms. Quinn has 52% of registered voters, compared with Mr. Lhota at 15%, and Independence Party hopeful Adolfo Carrión Jr. at 10%.

The poll considered how voters viewed endorsements from the Rev. Al Sharpton, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Mr. Bloomberg.

Only a quarter of Democrats said Mr. Sharpton's endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate. City voters were divided 44% to 44% on whether Mr. Bloomberg, a close ally of Ms. Quinn, should make his choice public. Among Republicans, 68% said Mr. Giuliani's support of Mr. Lhota makes them more likely to support Mr. Lhota. But in a general election, Mr. Giuliani's support could hurt, with 46% of registered voters saying his backing will make them less likely to support Mr. Lhota.

Among the Democratic contenders for mayor, Mr. Thompson, who came within five percentage points of unseating Mr. Bloomberg in 2009, has the highest favorability rating. Six of 10 Democrats have a positive impression of Mr. Thompson, while 16% do not. That's up from last month when 52% of Democrats thought well of him.

In the race for public advocate in the Democratic primary, Council Member Letitia James is in the lead, with 17%, followed closely by Catherine Guerriero, a university professor and small business owner, with 16%. At the bottom of the pack is state Sen. Daniel Squadron, with 8%, and Reshma Saujani, a former deputy public advocate, with 4%.

Among lesser-known Democrats, the Rev. Erick Salgado got 2% of registered Democrats, and former Council Member Sal Albanese received 1%.

The survey of 1,421 city adults was taken June 17 through Friday of last week. The poll reached 1,118 registered voters, with those results having a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

­Andrew Grossman contributed to this article.