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Poll: Potholes, Education Important To Portland Voters

It’s a tight competition between the three leading candidates running to replace Portland Mayor Sam Adams. Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, and Jefferson Smith are running a very close race, according to a new OPB/Fox-12 poll from DHM Research.

Poll Results
Complete poll results .pdf

The first lesson offered by the poll results is that the city’s economic and social future is not clear to many likely voters.

Clint Kuper said, “I’m very leery to say the economy is better than it was.”

Clint Kuper is a DJ who works downtown at a retail high-end electronics shop. He also has his own business doing everything from clubs to weddings to corporate events.

The past few years, he says, have been brutal. Things are picking up — a little. Like many other respondents in the survey, Kuper says economic challenges have informed the way he’s taking in the Mayoral race.

Kuper said, “I see one of the most livable cities in the world not doing itself justice.”

Kuper is one of 400 likely city voters interviewed between April 28th and 30th. Charlie Hales showed a slight lead, with 25% of the vote. Eileen Brady polled at 23%, and 20% of voters had decided on Jefferson Smith. But with the poll’s 5% margin of error, the race is essentially too close to call, with a whopping 28% of voters — like Clint Kuper — still undecided. Younger voters and East Siders figured heavily in the undecided group.

DHM pollster Rebecca Ball says the team found voters’ support for a specific candidate isn’t necessarily connected to any particular issue, but to certain personal qualities.

Issues identified by a recent poll as something Portland's next mayor could do something about. Click for larger image.

Rebecca Ball explained, “And so for Charlie, it’s that he’s most experienced and qualified. For Brady, it’s that she’s a successful businesswoman. For Smith, it’s more vague, with about 3 in 10 who said they didn’t know why they were supporting him. But those who could offer a response talked about him being a fresh new face with new ideas.”

And that’s good news for Jefferson Smith. The poll shows him closing a gap registered in previous polls with Hales and Brady.

There are other issues that might resonate. Five in ten voters surveyed say they want the next Mayor to deal with one of two things: fixing potholes, or securing more funding for public schools.

Portlanders like St. John’s resident Melanie Mosely have the economy on their minds, but education takes a close second. We caught up with Mosely on the steps of the K-8 school where she volunteers one day a week teaching theater.

April Baer / OPB
DJ Clint Kuper had some lean years during the recession. The economy matters to him, but he says he's looking for a true champion for public education as well.

Melanie Mosely said, “I see programs getting cut, I see teachers getting cut. I worry about public education.”

Mosely adds she’s listening for something beyond platitudes about economic development. For her, it’s not enough for candidates to be branded “business-friendly,” if that only means big business.

Mosely explained, “We have so many awesome small companies in the city that I wish we had the money to invest in, the time to invest in.”

Mosely says she’s eyeing one of the candidates but won’t rule out changing her mind.

While there’s still time for voters to do their homework, pollster Tim Hibbets says there’s not much time left for candidates to close the sale.

St Johns resident Melanie Mosely volunteers at Beach school one day a week. Her son attends here, too. She calls education one of her core issues.

April Baer / OPB

Tim Hibbetts said, “We may literally be in a situation where a few tenths of a point could end up the difference between making the runoff or not making the runoff. So whoever your candidate is, make sure you get that ballot in.”

Ballots are due May 15. If no one candidate gets a majority, two top vote getters will compete for the run-off in November.

A Day On The Campaign Trail

OPB photographers follow the candidates for a day.

Jefferson Smith Charlie Hales Eileen Brady

Jefferson Smith

Charlie Hales

Eileen Brady