In a WBAL-TV poll taken two weeks before the Sept. 12 primary, Kurt L. Schmoke held a comfortable 25-point lead over Clarence H. "Du" Burns in their race for the mayoralty.
The poll numbers reported yesterday were the first released by a major news organization on this year's city elections. They showed that Mayor Schmoke was the preference of 56 percent of the voters questioned, with 31 percent favoring Mr. Burns. Another 6 percent said they would vote for former Baltimore State's Attorney William A. Swisher, and 6 percent were undecided.
The poll showed a much closer race for city comptroller. City Councilwoman Jacqueline F. McLean, D-2nd, was preferred by 29 percent of the voters with 22 percent favoring Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers and 21 percent Mary W. Conaway, the Baltimore register of wills. In that race to succeed City Comptroller Hyman A. Pressman, the poll said more than a quarter of the voters -- 28 percent -- had not yet made up their minds.
The telephone poll of 619 registered Democratic voters in Baltimore was conducted between Aug. 24 and Aug. 27. Voters were asked for whom they would vote if the Democratic primary election were held that day.
Mayor Schmoke's wide lead over Mr. Burns was reminiscent of their first campaign matchup four years ago when poll after poll during the spring and summer showed Mr. Schmoke holding seemingly insurmountable leads over Mr. Burns, some as large as 30 percentage points. Yet, when the votes were finally counted on the day of the primary, Mr. Schmoke beat Mr. Burns by just over 5,000 votes, barely 3 percent.
Referring to that history, Mr. Burns yesterday dismissed the WBAL poll.
"The people of Baltimore will not be fooled again by this kind of farce," Mr. Burns said in a statement released by his campaign. ** "They all remember the landslide 30-point victory the media was predicting while I was just two points behind. The people don't believe these kind of polls because they know we're breathing down his neck and he knows it, too."
Mr. Schmoke also said he was reluctant to put his faith in pre-election polls, repeating the time-honored political adage that "the only poll that counts is on Election Day."
The WBAL-TV poll was conducted by Herbert C. Smith, director of Public Opinion Polling at Western Maryland College.
The station said that the survey has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.