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New poll puts Shontel Brown within five points of Nina Turner in tightening OH-11 race

Cuyahoga County Democratic chair has gained some steam, but lags in fundraising ahead of Aug. 3 primary

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Nina Turner and Shontel Brown

Following a slew of high-profile endorsements and independent expenditures, Democratic congressional hopeful Shontel Brown appears to be gaining on Nina Turner in Ohio’s increasingly competitive special election, according to new polling obtained by Jewish Insider.

The poll puts Brown, a Democratic Cuyahoga County councilwoman and party chair, at 36%, just five points behind Turner, a former Ohio state senator and progressive stalwart, who leads the race with 41%. The margin of error is 4.9%.

Conducted between July 13 and 17, the poll surveyed 400 likely primary voters in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, where Brown and Turner are competing in the crowded open-seat race to succeed former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who now serves as housing and urban development secretary in the Biden administration.

The survey was conducted by the Mellman Group on behalf of Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee, which endorsed Brown in February and is spending heavily on TV advertising and direct mailers in the weeks leading up to the Democratic primary. Its outcome will likely determine the next representative given the partisan makeup of the solid-blue Cleveland-area district.

Mark Mellman, who chairs DMFI PAC, also serves as president and CEO of the Mellman Group. The veteran Democratic pollster declined to comment on the record when reached by JI on Thursday.

Until recently, Brown had been struggling to keep pace with her well-known opponent, Turner, who gained national prominence as a 2020 presidential campaign co-chair for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). A late-May internal poll for Turner’s campaign put her at 50% among likely Democratic voters, 35 points ahead of Brown.

Turner’s formidable warchest, coupled with endorsements from leading progressives like Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), seemed to have solidly established her as the frontrunner.

But Brown’s campaign has been building momentum in recent weeks as the Cuyahoga party chair, who is closely aligned with Fudge, has raked in endorsements from mainstream Democrats like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) as well as a number of pro-Israel House Democrats.

In a July 19 memo accompanying the new poll, the Mellman Group refers to an earlier survey it conducted on the race, noting that “Brown had reduced Turner’s 35-point lead to 24 points” after earning Clinton’s endorsement in mid-June and beginning “paid communications.”

The memo attributes Brown’s new five-point deficit to a number of mitigating factors, including additional endorsements from Fudge’s mother and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC along with an ad campaign launched by DMFI’s PAC in late June — though some of its advertising has been accused of misrepresenting Turner’s record.

The new poll follows two other recent surveys that indicate a narrowing race.

An internal poll, produced for Brown’s campaign in early July, showed the Cuyahoga councilwoman trailing Turner by seven points, with 36% of the vote. And a separate early-July poll, conducted by TargetPoint Consulting, suggested that Brown and Turner were locked in a statistical dead heat, with both candidates pulling in 33%.

Despite Brown’s promising polling, she continues to lag behind Turner in fundraising. Brown pulled in just over $1.4 million last quarter, according to the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission, while Turner raised more than $2.3 million. 

“Turner is still slightly better known than Brown,” with a six-point lead in “hard name identification,” the Mellman Group writes in its memo.

But “with some of that difference in higher unfavorable ratings for Turner,” the polling firm adds, “the race between the two is exactly tied among those who know both candidates.”