New polling shows Kim White gaining on Tim Kelly in the Chattanooga mayoral race, days before the election.
According to a poll of 418 likely voters conducted this week by Spry Strategies, a Knoxville-based polling outfit hired by local conservative group Hamilton Flourishing, White moved up from just over 15% in a similar poll earlier this month to 21.1% this week.
At the same time, frontrunner Kelly dropped by nearly 1%, landing him at 27% and reducing the gap between first and second from over 12% to just shy of 6%.
White, who also reported the most fundraising out of the candidates earlier this week, said she is feeling a wave of support going into Election Day.
"Since last September, we've measured the success of our campaign through our growing base of dedicated volunteers, endorsements, contributions and especially the unparalleled support of thousands of Chattanooga residents from every neighborhood and walk of life," White said in a written statement Thursday. "While we are excited about the momentum indicated by these new numbers, what matters now is that you ask your friends and neighbors to join you in voting for me on Tuesday."
In another model of the most recent poll data — one that attempts to mirror the electorate from early voting data, rather than turnout from previous municipal elections — White did slightly better with 22.1% and Kelly dropped to 24.75%. That version puts White and Kelly within the poll's 4.7-percentage-point margin of error.
"Kim White has stormed back to secure her spot in the runoff and trails Tim Kelly by 5.98 points, just outside the [margin of error]," Spry Strategies President Ryan Burrell said in a statement Thursday of White, who has received support and donations from many local Republican officials.
While Kelly saw a slight decline, he remains at the top of the 15-candidate race for the third such poll since January.
"I'm humbled and grateful that our campaign continues to receive the most support of any candidate as we build momentum toward election day, which is the only poll that really matters. It is critical that every Chattanoogan cast their vote on March 2 to ensure the future of our city is a bright one — determined by our residents, not outside interests," Kelly said in a statement Thursday.
"Our campaign has knocked on more than 12,000 doors and made more than 35,000 phone calls. Across the city, Chattanoogans tell me they want great neighborhoods, good-paying jobs and access to a great education for their kids. And I have a plan to get it done," he said. "I'm excited by what I've seen in the early vote and look forward to closing out this election by staying positive and focused on my vision of One Chattanooga with opportunities for all."
If no candidate exceeds 50% of the vote on Tuesday — which is likely, given polling data and the number of candidates — the top two candidates will enter a runoff election. That is making the difference between second and third place crucial.
Former City Attorney Wade Hinton remains in third place behind White. While the gap between the two has grown to about 6% with White's bump in the poll, Hinton still saw a third consecutive increase in support, up to 15.3% from 12.2% two weeks ago.
""This is a very competitive race and these results show that, after only four months in the race, we have the momentum and support to win. In each poll released we have shown stronger gains than almost anyone in the race. The more that voters get to know about Wade, from growing up on the Westside to his experience in business and as City Attorney under Mayor Berke, the more they embrace his vision for economic opportunity," spokesperson Spencer Bowers said. "Our supporters are making calls and knocking on thousands of doors with Wade every day, and they are talking to the community about how to make Chattanooga a city we can all believe in. Wade's plans will create a strong economy in a city that will be safer, more equitable and inclusive."
Monty Bruell remained virtually unchanged in fourth place, moving from 8.1% to 8.3%.
Councilman Russell Gilbert, businessman Andrew McLaren, Oglesby, and former NAACP President Elenora Woods all polled at or under 5% in the newest poll. Fewer than 2.5% of respondents said they would support another candidate.
Another nearly 15% of respondents said they were undecided.