Democrat Steuart Pittman has taken a lead of 8 percentage points over his Republican challenger, Jessica Haire, in the race for Anne Arundel county executive, according to a new Capital poll completed this week.
With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, the poll, conducted in conjunction with a statewide Baltimore Sun Media and University of Baltimore survey, shows Pittman, the incumbent Democrat, leading Haire, the one-term County Council member from Edgewater, 48% to 40%. The survey showed 8% undecided and 4% who preferred not to say who they supported.
Eight days of early voting begins Thursday at nine locations and lasts through Nov. 3. Election Day is Nov. 8.
Pittman’s lead is buoyed by support among 86% of registered Democrats, and more than a third of independents, as well as those who have only recently decided who they are voting for, said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, an Annapolis-polling firm that conducted the poll. Haire has support from 84% of Republicans but lags behind Pittman among independents and voters who are voting across party lines — 9% of Republicans support Pittman compared to 6% of Democrats who favor Haire.
The survey of 439 likely Anne Arundel County voters was conducted by telephone and online from Oct. 20 to 25. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
Of the respondents, 38% of independents say they are supporting Pittman while 33% are siding with Haire. The majority of all respondents made up their minds on who to vote for in the past month.
“He’s picked up two-thirds of the people who decided who they’re going to support within the last two weeks. That is what somebody might call momentum. That’s a direction in the race,” Raabe said.
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One late-deciding Pittman supporter is David Miller, a 66-year-old Shady Side resident, who said he only decided in the past month for whom he was voting. Though he’s registered as a Democrat in order to vote in primaries, Miller said he more strongly identifies with being an independent.
“I kind of tend to, in the absence of a compelling reason to do otherwise, stick with the incumbent,” Miller said. In the past, he voted for Republican Larry Hogan for governor, he said.
The new poll shows different results than one conducted by Anne Arundel Community College’s Center for the Study of Local Issues released Oct. 7 that had the two candidates neck and neck with Haire showing a 33% to 31% lead that was within the poll’s margin of error.
Raabe said the key difference between the polls is timing. The community college poll was conducted from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1, while this poll was conducted over the course of the past week between Oct. 20 and 25. Since the first poll, thousands of mail-in ballots have been posted, television ads for both candidates have flooded the airwaves and the candidates met in their only debate at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts where they sparred over crime, development and spending.
This poll surveyed 191 Democrats, 143 Republicans and 105 Independents and was weighted to accurately reflect the breakdown of Republicans, Democrats and third-party voters in the county. For comparison, there were 410,824 registered voters in Anne Arundel County as of Sept. 30. Of those, 175,194 are Democrats, 130,804 are Republicans, 2,301 Libertarians, 650 are Green Party members, 426 are registered with the Working Class Party and 98,404 are unaffiliated.
Motivation among the two major parties is identical with 73% of Democrats and Republican respondents saying they were absolutely certain they would be voting in the general election. Independents were less enthusiastic with 55% saying they were absolutely certain.
In order to make up her deficit, Haire will need to appeal to women and undecided voters. Pittman is winning over as many men as women — he received 49% support from both — while women are less inclined to vote for Haire, according to the poll. She has the support of 44% of men and 37% of women. She’ll also need to win over independents, about a quarter of whom are still undecided.
“That affirms how much she has to tack toward the middle and, in the final days, make sure she’s speaking to that middle-of-the-road voter,” Raabe said.
Another poll respondent, Joyce Diggs, 74, from Severna Park is a lifelong Republican but she isn’t voting for Haire, she said.
Diggs considers herself fairly moderate and dislikes former President Donald Trump. While Haire has carefully avoided discussing Trump or his ally Dan Cox, the Republican candidate for governor, Diggs worries Haire may share views with them.
“I think her positions are more to the right than mine,” Diggs said. “I tend to, at this point, sympathize more with Democrats than Republicans.”
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Ron Russell, a small-business owner from Shady Side, who is registered as one of the 98,000 unaffiliated voters in the county, described Republicans and Democrats as different “wings of the same turkey.”
Russell, 58, said he supports Haire because he dislikes the way Pittman has handled crime issues and said he wants smaller government and lower taxes.
[ County executive candidates differ on approaches to crime, public safety ]
Being the incumbent has also benefited Pittman, according to some respondents, who said they like Pittman because they’ve directly interacted with him and seen him work to fix local issues.
Keshia Baird, a 37-year-old lifelong Democrat, said she’s seen him out in the community working on environmental issues in her Laurel neighborhood. She’ll likely vote the first day of early voting, she said.
“His team has been working with us to try to resolve some of the [environmental] issues there,” Baird said. “I feel like his team is responsive and I can communicate with them about any issues that I potentially have as a constituent, and I feel like they’re genuinely vested in the best interests of Anne Arundel County.”
This poll was supported in part by funds awarded to The Capital in 2019 after the news organization was recognized with a special Pulitzer Prize citation. This award honored The Capital staff for its “courageous response to the largest killing of journalists in U.S. history in their newsroom” after the 2018 attack in its offices that took the lives of five colleagues.