Challenger Brett Mandel leads incumbent Philadelphia Controller Alan Butkovitz 27% to 23% according to a poll commissioned by Mandel’s campaign. 46% of likely Democratic primary voters are undecided.
The pollster surveyed 400 likely primary voters April 3 to 6 via live telephone interviews. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9%.
Longshot hopeful Mark Zecca took 4%. The Democratic primary is May 21.
The poll was conducted by DC-based Thirty-Ninth Street Strategies. The same firm polled for the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee last cycle, as well as Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna).
“Mandel’s name identification is about the same as Butkovitz, which should be worrisome for an incumbent who has held the City Controller’s office for over seven years,” said pollster Marc Silverman. “Mandel is in position to score an upset victory over Butkovitz if he has the resources necessary to effectively communicate with voters in the expensive Philadelphia media market.”
Mandel’s name ID was 35% (31-4 positive) according to the poll, while Butkovitz’s was 37% (29-8 positive).
As with any internal campaign polling, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. Political polling firms tend to produce two or more memoranda based on a poll: one is meant for public consumption and paints the best picture; another gives a more detailed analysis – warts and all.
“It’s clearly a manipulated result,” said Butkovitz campaign spokesman Curtis Blessing. “They over-sampled certain parts of the city.”
Additionally, “The poll was conducted over a month ago before any advertising began.”
Mandel was an aide to former Controller Jonathan Saidel and in recent years directed the good government advocacy group Philadelphia Forward.
Butkovitz has served as City Controller since his election in 2005. In 2009, he defeated Mandel in his re-election primary. Many observers expect him to make a run at the Philadelphia Mayor’s office in 2015.
Zecca was an attorney in the city’s Law Department for 20 years.
Mandel and Butkovitz have repeatedly clashed during the heated primary campaign.
A top issue in the race is the Actual Value Initiative, which supporters say would modernize the city’s byzantine property tax system and critics warn would spike taxes for homeowners. Mandel supports AVI, Butkovitz opposes it.
Recently, both candidates have emphasized their supporters.
Former Governor and Philly mayor Ed Rendell backed Butkovitz, saying, “Alan has been a dogged Controller when it comes to attacking waste. He doesn’t go for spectacular headlines, but only strives to find areas where the city can make more money and improve its performance. He deserves another term as Controller.”
The city Democratic Committee, every ward organization but Mandel’s and much of the Philadelphia labor community – including the powerful IBEW Local 98 – are also supporting the incumbent.
Mandel has the support of a variety of progressive groups including the Liberty City Democratic Club, an LGBT advocacy organization. On Friday, he’s holding a press event to highlight endorsements from state Sens. Larry Farnese and Shirley Kitchen.
Full disclosure: the Philadelphia Office of City Controller is a client of Ceisler Media whose principal, Larry Ceisler, is a co-owner of PoliticsPA. Additionally Keegan Gibson is an employee of Ceisler Media.