A poll released Monday shows incumbent Byron W. Brown ahead of his two challengers by a wide margin in the Buffalo mayoral race.
The Spectrum News/Siena College poll of likely Buffalo Democratic primary voters shows the three-term incumbent leading with 51 percent, compared with 24 percent for city Comptroller Mark J. F. Schroeder and 13 percent for Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.
With the Sept. 12 primary about a month away, those polled gave Brown a 74 percent favorability rating. Both Schroeder and Grant had a 52 percent favorability rating.
Seventy-eight percent of those polled said Buffalo is on the right track.
The data puts Brown in a strong position as he seeks a fourth term as mayor, said Don Levy, director of Siena College Research Institute, in a written statement.
“Brown’s lead is consistent across virtually every demographic group,” Levy said. “He is supported by 49 percent of women and 54 percent of men. Fifty percent of white voters and 52 percent of black voters support him. At least 45 percent of Democrats — regardless of age, religion, income level or education — are supporting Brown.”
Voters also were asked whether Buffalo was headed on the right track or the wrong direction over the last four years on five issues. A majority of Democrats say Buffalo is on the right track on three of the issues: improving infrastructure, ensuring opportunities for young people to be successful and providing training to police in handling citizen/police interactions.
Voters, however, said Buffalo is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to crime and treating all neighborhoods fairly.
Still, Brown is “extremely well-liked,” Levy said.
“Two-thirds think he’s doing an excellent or good job as mayor. More than three-quarters say the city is on the right track. That’s a tough environment for challengers,” Levy said. “Schroeder and Grant — both well-liked but not as well-known as Brown — are in the difficult position of having to convince voters who like the job Brown is doing, to instead support them. While voters don’t think everything in Buffalo is wonderful ... there aren’t a lot of big issues for the challengers to use trying to unseat Brown.”
On Monday, Brown said he was pleased with the results of the Siena poll.
“We work hard every single day," Brown said. "I’m very pleased that people feel good about the direction that the city is going in under my leadership, but my focus is doing the work as mayor every single day, working hard to continue to build this city and focused on moving Buffalo forward.”
Brown said since he took office in 2006, his administration has strengthened and stabilized the city’s finances; cut residential and commercial taxes; promoted “record” economic development, “and now we’re seeing development in every single neighborhood in the city.”
Schroeder’s campaign spokesman said the Siena poll shows that the comptroller has made “great progress” catching up to the mayor over the past few months.
“We’ve got a month left to go," said Patrick J. Curry. "We’ll be participating in the upcoming debates. Our campaign commercials will be airing soon, and Mark has been walking door-to-door interacting with voters. We think that’s plenty of time to close the gap. Ultimately, the only poll that matters is Sept. 12.”
Voter turnout will play a big role in the outcome on Primary Day, Curry added.
“It can fluctuate. It’s about getting your voters to the poll, and we think our voters are motivated,” Curry said. “We’re going to move forward, and we’re pretty confident we’re going to get our voters to the poll on Sept. 12.”
Curry also questioned the accuracy of the poll, pointing out that in 2013 a Siena poll gave then-Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards a wide lead over the eventual winner, Lovely Warren, who was City Council President at the time.
“This Siena poll might not be accurate,” Curry said. “In fact, we saw in the Rochester race four years ago, they (Siena) had the incumbent winning by 36 points, when in fact Warren won by 17 points. And we believe there’s a similar discrepancy in this poll because of what the comptroller is seeing on a day-to-day basis walking through neighborhoods and talking with residents.”
Grant agreed with voters who believe Buffalo is going in the right direction and with those who said all neighborhoods are not treated fairly.
And she thought Brown’s favorability rating should have been higher than 74 percent, but she wasn’t surprised, she said.
“Walking in many communities, I can see why his (favorability) rating is not as high as it should be. There’s a lack of progress in economic development in certain communities,” she said.
Like Curry, Grant also questioned the accuracy of the Siena poll – but for different reasons. Grant took issue with how pollsters went about contacting voters.
“In this age of cell phones, many citizens don’t have land lines, and it’s my understanding the majority of calls were for people with land lines. I know people who said they didn’t get a call,” Grant said.
Still, Grant said she is campaigning every day and looking forward to Primary Day.
“I’m looking forward to being at the top of the heap on Sept. 12,” she said.