A third of voters remain undecided in the Colorado Springs mayoral race, according to a poll sponsored jointly by the Independent and FOX 21 and conducted by Luce Research last week.
The front-runner, former Attorney General John Suthers, leads the six-person field with 30 percent, while former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace got 22.25 percent in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Amy Lathen and Joel Miller polled at 7.75 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Appealing to the undecided 33 percent likely will keep candidates busy leading up to the April 7 city election, for which ballots will be mailed starting March 13.
The 400 people polled by Luce, a local firm, have voting records suggesting they're likely to participate in the city election. Three-quarters are 50 or older; nearly 87 percent have education beyond high school; and nearly nine out of 10 have lived here for 10 years or longer. Fifty-four percent are Republicans, 24.75 percent are Democrats, and 21.25 percent have another affiliation or are unaffiliated.
Those demographics might suggest a majority have deep roots in the community and are well-informed, but 28.25 percent said they hadn't heard of Suthers, who's kept a high profile for decades as district attorney, U.S. attorney and director of the state Department of Corrections.
Suthers leads the way on fundraising with about $241,000, and recently poured $147,000 into radio and TV ads. He's been endorsed by the powerful Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs and by Colorado Springs Forward, a newly formed group composed of moneyed interests.
Asked to comment on the Indy poll, Suthers says, "The only poll that counts is that which ends on April 7. We're going to run to the finish line and work very hard."
Makepeace has the most name recognition of any candidate, the poll shows, with 84 percent saying they've heard of her. But only 44 percent gave her a favorable rating, while 27.75 percent gave her an unfavorable rating, and 11.25 percent said they were unsure.
Makepeace, who's raised about $42,000 (including $1,000 from Independent president Fran Zankowski), says she's seeing an increase in volunteers, donations and buzz on social media. "I think that [grassroots approach] is working," she says, noting her campaign is focusing on neighborhood outreach.
"I'm ... trying to touch people who might not typically be engaged in local elections," she adds, "and I'm finding people very receptive."
Approval ratings for Lathen and Miller, neither of whom has sought or won a citywide race, polled lower. Lathen, an El Paso County Commissioner since 2008, tallied a 25 percent approval rating, but 47.25 percent said they hadn't heard of her; another 15.5 percent were unsure how they felt about her. She's raised about $80,000 in campaign money.
Miller has raised only $10,000. A former city councilor who resigned in November to run for mayor after representing north District 2 for two years, Miller received favorable ratings from 10.25 percent of those polled, while a whopping 62.75 percent hadn't heard of him and another 15 percent were unsure of him.
Two additional candidates — Tony Carpenter and Lawrence Martinez — shared 2 percent in the ratings.
The poll gave outgoing Mayor Steve Bach a 50.25 percent approval rating, with 31.5 percent rating him unfavorably, 9 percent saying they hadn't heard of him.