NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A new poll in the Republican gubernatorial primary shows Williamson County businessman Bill Lee in the lead. But at least one candidate is claiming the poll is a "fake" and accusing the Lee campaign of releasing it to create momentum.
The poll was released Monday by JMC Analytics, a polling firm based out of Louisiana that promises its clients "strategic guidance" in "public opinion polling." Lee led the group of six GOP candidates.
- Bill Lee: 26%
- Randy Boyd: 20%
- Diane Black: 19%
- Beth Harwell: 16%
Two other candidates, Basil Marceaux and Kay White, failed to get more than two percent between them. "Undecided" actually came in third with 17%. Bill Lee led among undecided voters too.
Said the Lee campaign, "We feel great about the state of our campaign right now. We are seeing a tremendous amount of momenetum."
However, the Randy Boyd campaign says the poll is "fake," Boyd for Governor CEO Chip Saltsman minced no words in his statement:
"No one should fall for a deeply-flawed poll cooked up at the 11th hour by some unknown pollster.
The sample is wrong and the methodology is way off. Not sure who paid for this bogus poll - but it looks like just a publicity stunt by the Lee campaign to try and artificially create some momentum."
One issue they took with the poll - it did not weed out respondents by those who were likely to vote in the GOP primary August 2. 17% said they did not plan to vote in the primary at all.
Chris Hartline, Communications Director for Diane Black's campaign released the following statement in response to the poll:
“While moderates Randy Boyd and Bill Lee argue about a bogus poll from a firm no one has heard of, conservative Diane Black and her team are busy talking to voters about her record of working with President Trump, her vision, and her endorsements from the NRA, Right to Life and American Conservative Union.”
Chip Saltsman, Randy Boyd for Governor Campaign CEO:
"No one should fall for a deeply-flawed poll cooked up at the 11th hour by some unknown pollster. The sample is wrong and the methodology is way off. Not sure who paid for this bogus poll - but it looks like just a publicity stunt by the Lee campaign to try and artificially create some momentum. There will likely be many more fake polls floating around, but our numbers show Randy in the lead statewide - winning in East Tennessee, winning in West Tennessee, and very competitive in Middle.
Obviously, with so many undecided voters left, anything can happen, but we feel very good about where we are 10 days out from Primary Day. Thanks to Randy's hard work, we have the best grassroots ground game which is making a big difference - and without question, we have the candidate most experienced and best prepared to lead our state as our next Governor.”
And Lee said they are confident in his campaign:
“We feel great about the state of our campaign right now. We are seeing a tremendous amount of momentum. We started off this campaign with a 95 county, 95 day tour. We are finishing this campaign with 100 town halls all across the state. With every packed house our momentum grows because I believe Tennesseans want a conservative leader and now more than ever they want an outsider. As a result of our momentum the politicians in this race are attacking with dishonest and deceptive ads because that’s what politicians do. I think these dishonest ads are a great example of everything that’s wrong with politics and I’m not going down that road. My underlying principle in life is that you should do to others what you want done to you. Those are the Tennessee values that I’ll take to the capital."
Beth Harwell's campaign also released a statement:
"This poll shows Speaker Harwell's positives are vert high, that our numbers are surging and that the two former front runners who have spent the most money are moving downward. Speaker Harwell is the only candidate remaining positive and talking about issues Tennesseans care about. She is running on her record, and they are running on political promises."
Poll watchers at Five Thirty-Eight give JMC a C+ rating on accuracy.
JMC president and founder John Couvilion says he stands by his firm's work. He says that C+ rating was based on less than 1% of the polls he has completed. He said he has done over 500 polls in 30 states over thr course of the last decade. He said he conducted this poll because "as a southerner" he was interested in the race.
NewsChannel5 Political Analyst Pat Nolan said the race is still too close to call.
"I think increasingly its become a three way race, but its too volatile at this point to make a prediction," said Nolan.
Early voting continues until July 28.