A little more than two months remain before Election Day, and fully two-thirds of voters have no idea who they'll end up supporting, according to the first major poll on the race.
KHOU and KUHF's poll, done by Rice's Bob Stein, fully backs up the feeling that the 2009 race has been utterly invisible to voters.
Stein tells Hair Balls that the lack of knowledge about the candidates is partly because money is tight and ad budgets minuscule compared to past open-seat races. By this time in 2003, Bill White had spent twice as much in ads as any current candidate, he says.
The numbers: Annise Parker led the pack with a tiny 13.2 percent of the voters saying they support her; Gene Locke came in second at 9.6 percent and Peter Brown had 5.2 percent.
Luckily for Locke, the margin of error for the poll was 4.5 percent, allowing him to send out e-mails saying he and Parker were in "a dead heat."
Kim Devlin, Locke's adviser, says Parker enjoys much more name recognition since Locke has never run for office.
"The more Houstonians hear about Gene's experience, background and vision for Houston the more his support grows and that is reflected in this poll," she said.
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Parker's spokeswoman, Sue Davis, tells Hair Balls the other candidates are seeing no return on their campaign investment. "Every other candidate, after months of campaigning and spending, is still in single digits," she says. "Gene Locke, who has the endorsement of a number of downtown insiders, has spent over a million dollars and can't get traction and is stuck in single digits. According to his insider and lobbyist backers, Gene was supposed to be inevitable and he is not. Peter Brown has invested nearly a million dollars of his own money and is stuck in fourth place in the second round." (The "second round" referred to is a subset of the poll about potential run-off support.)
Davis also mentioned that Stein's son-in-law, Jesse Dickerman, was Locke's campaign manager and still works for him. She said the conflict is why the Houston Chronicle dropped out of the poll.
Stein told us he disclosed his relationship to KHOU, KUHF and the Chron, and he didn't know why the Chron dropped out. Obviously enough, he stands by his poll.
As most politicos know, Stein's wife works for Bill White, and was with him when Stein did earlier polls involving White, and when he gets quoted regularly by media outlets on municipal matters.