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Poll shows Kittleman leading Ball in Howard County executive's race

Calvin Ball, District 2 Howard County Councilman, left, and Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, after a debate in Howard's county executive race at Turf Valley Resort.
Calvin Ball, District 2 Howard County Councilman, left, and Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, after a debate in Howard's county executive race at Turf Valley Resort. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Republican incumbent County Executive Allan Kittleman has a double-digit lead over Democratic opponent Calvin Ball, according to a new poll.

The Howard County Voter Poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy shows Kittleman has the support of 53 percent of likely voters while Ball has backing of 37 percent. Ten percent of voters are undecided.

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The poll credited Kittleman’s lead to personal popularity and his 63 percent job-approval rating.

“We think the race is a lot closer than this poll would have you believe,” said Colleen Martin-Lauer, a spokeswoman for the Ball campaign.

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Martin-Lauer said an August poll by a Mississippi-based Democratic firm and paid for by Our Voice MD, a nonprofit supportive of Ball, showed a closer race between Kittleman and Ball— with Kittleman leading by 3.8 percentage points.

"It's always good to see an independent poll confirm what we're seeing and hearing on the ground,” said Sean Murphy, a spokesman for the Kittleman campaign, who declined to disclose internal polling.

Maryland's Howard County — a swing jurisdiction that’s had two Democrats and two Republicans as county executives since 1990 — often mirrors the sentiment of the state as a whole, and political observers are watching the Allan Kittleman-Calvin Ball race for signs of trends.

“Allan has been earning the votes of Howard County residents for the last four years by pulling people of all backgrounds together, putting politics aside and getting things done,” Murphy said.

The survey, released last week, shows Ball struggling to dominate core Democratic blocs. Among women, 38 percent said they would vote for him. Ball had 46 percent support from younger voters — ages 18 to 34.

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Ninety percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats support Kittleman while 6 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats support Ball.

Kittleman has majority support in swing District 3, which includes Savage and Guilford, with 51 percent support. Thirteen percent of voters are undecided.

Kittleman, who is white, struggles most with black voters— 24 percent support him while 69 percent support Ball, who is black.

Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon, said the poll exhibits the benefit of an incumbent’s name recognition.

Ball, who represents District 2 on the council, which includes portions of Elkridge and Columbia, struggles with favorable perception— 36 percent of likely voters favorably recognized Ball’s name and 22 percent did not recognize him at all, according to the poll

The survey was conducted between Sept. 17 and Sept. 19 and was based on 625 random phone interviews with registered voters— all of whom said they were likely to vote. Pollsters said the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Coker declined to disclose who paid for the poll but said the group is unaffiliated with either campaign.

Early voting begins Oct. 25.

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