Nina Turner opened an early lead in this summer’s hotly contested Ohio special election — but the progressive heavyweight might not be running away with it.
A new internal poll by her top competitor, Cuyahoga County Democratic Chair Shontel Brown, suggests the Democratic primary race has tightened. In the survey, conducted in early July, Turner led with 43 percent, followed by Brown with 36 percent.
That 7-point gap is a much closer spread than earlier polling from both candidates. An April survey from Brown’s campaign found her trailing Turner by 32 points, 42 percent to 10 percent. And Turner’s late May poll showed her with 50 percent of the vote, up 35 points over Brown.
But the election has been ramping up ahead of the Aug. 3 primary, as the candidates and their allies launch competing TV ads and endorsements. Both women are vying to replace Marcia Fudge, who left the deep-blue northeast Ohio seat to join the Biden administration.
The race has drawn outsized national interest because it has split along several of the most prominent fault lines in the Democratic Party.
Turner, a former state senator who co-chaired Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, has the support of many leading liberals. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), as well as Sanders and the Justice Democrats, are all backing her.
Meanwhile, Brown has the backing of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (S.C.), the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, Hillary Clinton and Fudge’s mother.
She also has help from an outside group, Democratic Majority for Israel. Its ads have gone negative on Turner; a recent spot noted that Turner once “said voting for Biden was like eating s—.”
Democratic Majority for Israel has spent nearly $475,000 on TV, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. Turner has spent more than $1.2 million on the air so far, compared to Brown’s $617,000.
Brown’s early ad echoed a similar theme, suggesting that Turner would not be a strong ally to President Joe Biden, citing comments she made during her role as a top surrogate for Sanders.
Turner went negative on the air recently, dropping an ad warning that Brown and her “out-of-state special interests” are misrepresenting her record. “I’ve spent my career fighting for the Democratic Party,” Turner says in the spot.
This recent poll from Brown’s campaign included 400 likely voters in the Democratic primary and was conducted July 6-8 by Normington Petts with a margin of error of 4.9 percent. Just 7 percent of voters said they were voting for a candidate besides Brown or Turner, while 14 percent were undecided.