by Jim Nintzel
Republican Jesse Kelly has a commanding lead in the GOP primary of the Congressional District 8 special election, according to a poll commissioned by Citizens United.
After winning a crowded GOP primary in 2010, Kelly came within a few thousand votes of defeating Gabrielle Giffords, who stepped down last month to focus on her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head on Jan. 8, 2011.
The survey of 700 GOP voters, taken on Feb. 15-16, shows that Kelly has the support of 43 percent of the voters, while state Sen. Frank Antenori is in second place with 18 percent. Sportscaster and businessman Dave Sitton had just 10 percent in the poll, while former Air Force fighter pilot Martha McSally had 8 percent and John Lervold had 1 percent.
The GOP primary will be decided on April 17, with early voting starting in mid-March. The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Democrat Ron Barber, the only Democrat to announce plans to run in the June 12 special general election.
Here's the press release from Citizens United, which has endorsed Kelly:
Wenzel Strategies conducted a telephone survey of likely Republican special primary election voters in Arizona’s currently existing 8th Congressional District regarding the selection of a nominee to fill a vacant congressional seat. The survey was conducted Feb. 15-16, 2012, and included 700 respondents. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.68 percentage points.
The survey of voters in AZ CD8 shows that Jesse Kelly is far and away the leader for the Republican nomination for Congress, winning 43% support in a five-way contest. He is far better known than any of the other candidates in the race, and leads by wide margins in almost every demographic category in the survey.
Among self-identified moderates and mainline conservatives, he leads with 38% support, while among conservatives who support the TEA Party movement he wins 46% support.
A distant second place is Frank Antenori, who wins 18% support in the survey.
Another 20% said they were unsure for whom to vote in the special primary election.
The survey also shows that Kelly’s support is much more solid than is the support for the other candidates, as 56% of Kelly voters said they were firm in their choice. Another 34% of his supporters said they were moderately settled on their choice in the race, but that it was possible they could change their mind before they vote. Just 10% of Kelly voters said they were very open to changing their minds before they vote.
Seven out of 10 respondents said they had a favorable opinion of Kelly, while just 16% said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. Just 14% said they did not know enough about Kelly to have formed an opinion about him. Respondents also said they were displeased with the direction in which things in general were heading in the local area. Just 12 said things locally were on the right track, while 78% said things were headed in the wrong direction.