Ward 8 candidate Sheila Bunn
Ward 8 candidate Sheila Bunn

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Who’s going to be the next Marion Barry? Who knows. Without any polling, it’s hard to know who’s leading in the Ward 8 field less than a month before the special election.

Fortunately, at least one group is polling the field… if only anyone knew who they were.

Last week, Ward 8 activist Philip Pannell picked up his phone to answer what turned out to be a Public Policy Polling survey. According to Pannell, the poll asked whether he’d be swayed by an endorsement from Muriel Bowser (an allusion to Green Team favorite LaRuby May). The poll continued with more questions aimed, without naming them, at specific candidates: whether respondents would be swayed by an endorsement from ex-mayor Vince Gray (candidate Sheila Bunn), or would support someone from a “prominent political family” (like, say, Marion C. Barry).

Finally, according to Pannell, the poll asked him whether he’d support someone “who has a reputation for fighting for Ward 8.” Similar accounts of the poll have appeared on a Facebook group devoted to the race.

LL checked in with the campaigns with enough money to hire pollsters—Eugene Kinlow, Bunn, and May. Staffers for all three campaigns said their campaigns haven’t commissioned any polls.

The PPP poll isn’t the only measure supposedly taken of the race. With Bowser’s endorsement and a hefty cash advantage over her rivals, May looks like a contender in the race, even without polls. But May’s detractors in other campaigns delight in the rumor of a possibly non-existent poll allegedly commissioned by Phinis Jones, a May supporter and Park Southern scandal figure. In their telling, Jones’ poll came up with disappointing results for May. Notably, though, no one who told LL this had actually seen the poll.

All these rumors are starting to remind LL of the the mystery polls that claimed to show support for eventual mayoral loser David Catania in 2014. But according to Jones, he never funded any special election poll. Jones tells LL that the rumors about his purported poll are “absolutely not true.”

Which isn’t to say that Jones hasn’t been touched by poll-mania.

“I’ve been polled in, I believe, three different surveys,” Jones says.

Photo by Will Sommer