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Poll: Jesse Kelly leads crowded GOP pack in CD8 primary

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Poll: Jesse Kelly leads crowded GOP pack in CD8 primary

  • Kelly announced his candidacy at a press conference on Feb. 3.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comKelly announced his candidacy at a press conference on Feb. 3.

Jesse Kelly is out in front of the field of Republican candidates in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to a poll by a political action committee supporting him.

Kelly is supported by 43 percent of likely GOP primary voters, said a poll commissioned by the Citizens United Political Victory Fund.

While 20 percent remain undecided, state Sen. Frank Antenori is in second place with 18 percent in the survey of 700 Republicans conducted Wednesday and Thursday. University of Arizona sportscaster and businessman Dave Sitton was at 10 percent, with former Air Force fighter pilot Martha McSally trailing with 8 percent. Sierra Vista's John Lervold gained the nod of 1 percent of those questioned.

The primary is set for April 17, with early balloting to being in mid-March.

On the Democratic side, other potential candidates have stepped back in favor of Ron Barber, the former Giffords' district director who was wounded in the Jan. 8 attack, along with his boss and 11 others. Six were killed in what authorities charge was an attempt to assassinate Giffords, who resigned her seat last month to focus on her recovery.

The resignation set in motion the special election process, which will run concurrently with the beginning of the fall election cycle. Southern Arizona's congressional districts will have slightly different lines in the fall races, after the decennial redistricting redrew the lines to reflect population changes.

The poll, released Friday, shows Kelly has strong support from conservative Republicans, said Ohio pollster Wenzel Strategies, which conducted the survey.

Tea Party supporters give Kelly the nod 46 percent of the time, while 38 percent of self-identified moderates and mainline conservatives give Kelly support, the poll said.

While Kelly narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010, the residual name recognition may be serving his candidacy well.

"Kelly voters said they were firm in their choice" 56 percent of the time, the pollster said in a press release. 70 percent had a favorable opinion of Kelly, while just 16 percent said they had an unfavorable view of him.

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