The question has been asked: Has the continuing drip of news about Jefferson Smith's 1993 assault case killed his campaign? A SurveyUSA poll released today, conducted for KATU right when news of the case was breaking, shows Smith's rival, Charlie Hales, only slightly extending his lead from a poll conducted just a few weeks ago.
But two things are worth noting: First, the poll of 513 Portlanders wrapped up just as the worst-yet story for Smith was emerging—the release of a police report and an interview with the woman he punched in the face during what's now become an infamous scuffle at an off-campus college party. Second, voters who don't know who they'll choose no longer make up the largest plurality of respondents—breaking fairly decisively in Hales' favor.
As it stands, Hales is ahead 37 percent to 30 percent, with 33 percent of voters still undecided. Last month, the numbers stood at 34 percent to 29 percent, with 37 percent still undecided. Hales now exceeds the margin of error in the KATU poll, which is plus or minus 4.4 percent.
It's not disastrous for Smith, not yet at least, but it does show he's facing an even deeper hole with time running out. A looming question is whether and how much the assault story will dampen the enthusiasm that sits at the core of his operation's ground game—a factor that helped strongly push him into the runoff in May.
SurveyUSA didn't ask about the tight runoff between incumbent Commissioner Amanda Fritz and State Representative Mary Nolan, inquiring, instead, about three local measures. And while it looks good for the schools bond and the library district, which have sizable leads, I'd say the arts income tax pushed hard by city hall is in trouble. Only 21 percent of respondents said they would back it, compared to 22 percent saying "no."