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Poll jam: Preckwinkle, Daley inch ahead as all 14 struggle to crack 13 percent

Toni Preckwinkle and Bill Daley are the nominal frontrunners in a crowded mayoral race — but the Cook County Board president could be in trouble should she face either the former commerce secretary or state Comptroller Susana Mendoza in a run-off.

And more than a quarter of the electorate remains undecided in what is still statistically a wide open race.

Those are the key findings of a Chicago Sun-Times poll conducted by We Ask America. The survey was done Monday through Wednesday with telephone interviews of 644 likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.88 percentage points.

Taking the lead in the mayor’s race are Preckwinkle with 12.7 percent, followed by Daley with 12.1 percent, former state Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico with 9.3 percent, businessman Willie Wilson with 9 percent and Mendoza with 8.7 percent.

Given the poll’s margin of error, that is essentially a statistical dead heat among the top four. Mendoza is a fraction of a percentage point shy of being included in that tie.

Rounding out the list is former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas with 4.3 percent; former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy with 3.7 percent; community activist Amara Enyia with 3.1 percent; former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot with 2.8 percent; state Rep. La Shawn Ford with 1.2 percent; former Ald. Robert Fioretti with 0.9 percent; lawyer Jerry Joyce with 0.9 percent; and lawyer John Kozlar with 0.6 percent.

Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who was knocked off the ballot on Tuesday — when the survey was already underway — garnered the support of 4.7 percent. Tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin was included in the poll, but he received no support.

Mayoral candidates, l-r, Dorothy Brown, Gery Chico, Bill Daley, Amara Enyia, Garry McCarthy, Lori Lightfoot, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle, Paul Vallas and Willie Wilson prepare for the NABJ Mayoral Forum January 17, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Mayoral candidates, l-r, Dorothy Brown, Gery Chico, Bill Daley, Amara Enyia, Garry McCarthy, Lori Lightfoot, Susana Mendoza, Toni Preckwinkle, Paul Vallas and Willie Wilson prepare for the NABJ Mayoral Forum January 17, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped a bombshell in September when he announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.

A whopping 21 candidates submitted petitions to get on the ballot during the November filing period.

Since then, the field has narrowed through candidates being thrown off the ballot or voluntarily folding their candidacies. But after all that, 14 remain.

With so many candidates on the stage, grabbing the spotlight has been tough.

If no candidate wins a majority in the Feb. 26 mayoral election, the top two vote getters square off in an April 2 runoff.

With such a crowded field, a run-off is likely, making the many potential head-to-head matches the ones candidates are already anticipating.

The poll sought to measure three of those possible run-offs.

Asked who they’d prefer in a match-up between Preckwinkle and Mendoza — two candidates who have repeatedly targeted one another — voters gave Mendoza the edge. The poll found the comptroller with 43.5 percent compared to Preckwinkle’s 35.1 percent. Another 21.4 percent were undecided.

Mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza, left, in the Sun-Times newsroom last week. File Photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times; County Board President Toni Preckwinkle,right, speaks with the media on the first day of the filing period Monday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Susana Mendoza (left) and Toni Preckwinkle (right). | Sun-Times file photos

In a race between Daley and Preckwinkle, the poll found Daley with a slight lead over Preckwinkle — 40.1 percent over 38.2 percent, another statistical dead heat. Another 21.7 percent were undecided.

In a hypothetical match-up between Mendoza and McCarthy, the comproller clobbered the former top cop, 54 percent to 24.2 percent. Again 21.7 percent were undecided.

Respondents were also asked about issues that are most important to them as Chicago residents. Crime, the city’s financial crisis and the quality of Chicago schools were the top three most important issues to voters.

The mayoral race has also been complicated by the federal investigation and criminal charges filed against Ald. Ed Burke. The corruption charges alleging that Burke used his position as 14th Ward alderman to steer property tax work toward his private law firm have dominated the headlines and forced a number of the candidates to answer embarrassing questions about their ties to Burke.

But political corruption was ranked a distant fourth in importance in the minds of voters, chosen by just 9 percent of those surveyed.

The poll also gives some insight into how candidates are doing with different demographic groups.

Wilson received the highest level of support from African-American voters polled, with 20.3 percent. About 11.4 percent of African-American voters said they’d support Preckwinkle, and 8.9 percent said they’d vote for Brown, who is no longer running but has said she’ll back another candidate soon. Another 7.3 percent said they’d vote for Daley. Some 27.6 percent were undecided.

Chicago mayoral candidates Willie Wilson and Dorothy Brown speak to reporters outside the Board of Elections after Wilson withdrew his objection to Brown on Tuesday. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago mayoral candidates Willie Wilson and Dorothy Brown speak to reporters outside the Board of Elections after Wilson withdrew his objection to Brown earlier this month. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mendoza took the lead with Hispanic voters, with 19.5 percent, with Chico following with 17.1 percent and both Daley and Preckwinkle at 14.6 percent. Nearly a quarter of Hispanic voters said they were undecided.

Among women voters polled, Preckwinkle took the lead with 12.4 percent, followed by Daley at 10.2 percent  – with 28.5 percent undecided. Daley had the most support among men voters, with 14.7 percent, followed by Preckwinkle with 13.2 percent and Chico with 10.3 percent.