While Birmingham attorney Terri Sewell is leaving her competitors in the dust when it comes to fundraising for the open 7th district seat, a new poll commissioned by state Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr. shows that he and Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot are the early frontrunners in the Democratic primary.
Smoot took 24 percent in that poll, which was in the field Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Hilliard trailed her with 19 percent, and former Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. (D) took 9 percent. Sewell came in fourth place with 4 percent. A full 40 percent of voters said they were undecided.
The survey of 402 likely primary voters was conducted by the Feldman Group and had a margin of error of 5 points.
“I’m pleased our campaign continues to build momentum,— Hilliard said in a statement.
According to the poll, Smoot, who is also a talk show host on a Birmingham radio station, enters the race with 68 percent name identification. Hilliard has 56 percent name ID while Sewell is at 32 percent and Perkins at 31 percent.
But Sewell’s campaign will certainly try to use her massive fundraising advantage to boost her name ID in the Birmingham media market, which covers about 80 percent of the district, and the Montgomery media market, which covers about 15 percent of the district.
Sewell, a longtime associate of outgoing Rep. Artur Davis (D) who attended Princeton University at the same time as first lady Michelle Obama, raised almost $105,000 in the third quarter and had about $318,000 in cash on hand at the end of September.
Smoot raised just $14,000 during the third quarter and reported just under $40,000 in the bank. Hilliard raised about $33,000 for the quarter and had $29,000 in cash on hand. Hilliard’s report listed contributions from Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and $9,000 in contributions from the campaign committee and political action committee of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). Hilliard is the son of ex-Rep. Earl Hilliard (D), who was ousted by Davis in a Democratic primary in 2002.
In the majority black district where President Barack Obama won with more than 70 percent of the vote last year, the Democratic primary will be the only election that matters in the race to replace Davis, who is running for governor next year. A June primary is scheduled, but the race appears likely to head to a July runoff.