New Poll Shows Dead Heat in Alabama Race to Replace Rep. Artur Davis

Posted May 20, 2010 at 10:31am

Lawyer Terri Sewell has released a new internal poll that shows her in a dead heat with Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot in the primary that will decide who will replace Rep. Artur Davis (D) in Alabama’s overwhelmingly Democratic 7th district.

Sewell’s poll showed her and Smoot tied with 22 percent each, while state Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr. was running just behind at 20 percent. A fourth Democrat, lawyer Martha Bozeman, took 7 percent.

The telephone survey of 400 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research May 13-16 and had a 4.9-point margin of error. The primary is June 1.

In their polling memo, Jeff Liszt and Zac McCrary said Sewell has captured the momentum in the race, adding that when they polled the contest in mid-January, Smoot was at 29 percent, Hilliard was at 25 percent and Sewell was at just 9 percent.

A poll released by Smoot’s camp in mid-April showed her at 33 percent, Hilliard at 28 percent and Sewell at 13 percent.

In early May, Sewell began running an aggressive broadcast television campaign that included 1,500 points in the Montgomery media market and 1,000 points of broadcast in the Birmingham media market. Those ads have complemented her eight weeks of cable buys and 12 weeks of radio ads. She’s been able to fund that advertising campaign with a war chest that has been unmatched by any of her competitors. At the end of March, she had more than three times the cash on hand of Hilliard and more than 15 times as much cash as Smoot.

Hilliard currently has no television ads but is running radio ads districtwide. Smoot has yet to air any radio or television campaign ads. Both campaigns said Thursday that they intend to expand their media programs before June 1.

But Sewell will have to keep leveraging that cash advantage in the final two weeks of the primary as Smoot, a radio talk-show host, and Hilliard, the son of the district’s former Congressman, both continue to have higher name identification than Smoot, according to the Anzalone Liszt poll.

With such a close race among Sewell, Smoot and Hilliard, the contest appears certain to head to a July 13 runoff.

Sewell has earned the backing of the well-funded, pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List, while Hilliard picked up a notable endorsement from the Congressional Black Caucus’ political action committee.