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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke speaks during a press conference at Wilson Air Center on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Hours after Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday that he would not renew his stay-at-home order at the end of the month in response to coronavirus, Berke said he would err on the side of safety rather than setting an "arbitrary reopening date."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is highly favored during the last year of his time at the city's helm, while Chattanoogans are not attached to a particular candidate to replace him, according to a SurveyUSA research study.

The poll, commissioned by local business owners Nick Macco and Adam Boeselager, asked a wide swath of questions regarding registered voters' views toward government and business.

Among the answers was a clear indication that Berke, whose final term as mayor ends in March 2021, is in good graces with his constituents, as 77% of the roughly 400 registered voters polled said they either approve or strongly approve of Berke's handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the same voters indicated that the race to replace Berke is wide open less than a year out.

According to the poll, if voters had to vote today among rumored mayoral candidates Weston Wamp, Kim White and Tim Kelly and confirmed candidates Russell Gilbert and Monty Bruell, just 44% would be able to decide.

Former conservative congressional candidate Weston Wamp had the highest rating, with 16% selecting him over other candidates. Wamp was followed by City Councilman Gilbert with 11%, River City Company President and CEO White with 8%, and local business owners Kelly and Bruell with 6% and 4%, respectively.

Of those candidates, only Bruell and Gilbert have actually announced their candidacies.

Wamp told the Times Free Press Friday that he was "not currently planning to run," but that he has been asked by a lot of people to consider it. He also said he was asked in advance if he wanted to be on the poll due to his existing friendship with Macco.

On Friday, Kelly said that he was "seriously considering" running for office but was not made aware he would be included in the poll.

White was not available for comment Friday afternoon, but recently announced that she would vacate her position at River City Company after over a decade in the role.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.

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