Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner not a lock for runoff

Christine Quinn and Councilman Ruben Wills at Maranatha

Christine Quinn and Councilman Ruben Wills at Maranatha Baptist Church in Queens on July 7, 2013. (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Recent polls show Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner taking turns at the head of the pack of New York City's Democratic mayoral candidates, but experts said there's still plenty of time for lower-polling candidates to vault into the top tier.

"We are nearly eight weeks from Primary Day. That is a lifetime in politics," Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said.

Quinn, the City Council speaker, leads Weiner, the former congressman, by 27 percent to 18 percent, according to a New York Times-Siena poll published Thursday. A Quinnipiac Poll last week had put Weiner ahead of Quinn, 25 percent to 22 percent.

In both surveys, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were tied for third, polling at or near 10 percent.

Those numbers may change as the primary date nears and ads and televised debates help voters to learn more about the candidates, experts said.

Political consultant Joseph Mercurio said the Times-Siena poll "overstates Quinn a little and understates Thompson a little." He pointed to seniors and union families -- two demographics most likely to vote in a primary -- in the survey as better indicators of how the candidates are faring.

Quinn, Weiner and Thompson are separated by only 4 percentage points among older voters. Those three and de Blasio are separated by only 7 percentage points in union households.

Weiner enjoys name recognition among voters surveyed in polls, but doesn't have the labor union and political club affiliations that drive voters who will actually cast ballots, said David Birdsell, Baruch College dean of public affairs.

"There's a lot of campaigning left to be done," he said.

If no candidate earns 40 percent of the vote in the Sept. 10 primary, the first- and second-place finishers meet in an Oct. 1 runoff.

Campaigns polling both well and poorly downplayed the survey results. "Bad early polls don't freak me out; good early polls don't make me dance," Thompson chief strategist Jonathan Prince said.

The Times-Siena poll surveyed 1,010 registered voters between July 9 and 15. Its margins of error are plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for all voters and plus or minus 4 percentage points for Democrats.

Quinn sought Thursday to win over undecided voters by launching her first television ad. The 30-second spot called "Middle Class" will air on seven broadcast and cable stations. In it, she ticks off achievements as council speaker such as expanding prekindergarten and passing eight balanced budgets.

"While others talk about fighting for the middle class, I've been doing it," she says.

Quinn spokesman Mike Morey would not disclose the cost of the ad buy.

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