State Sen. Jim Whelan has a 21-point lead over Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles, his Republican challenger, according to a Stockton Polling Institute poll released today.
Whelan leads with 55 percent to 34 percent for Balles, with 11 percent undecided or refusing to say.
That margin represents an increase of 9 percentage points in the spread since a Stockton Poll released Sept. 11 showed Whelan ahead 51 percent to 39 percent.
The district’s state Assembly race remains tight, with Republican incumbent John Amodeo leading with 23 percent and only two or three percentage points separating the other three major candidates. However, 15 percent remain undecided, making the picture very unclear two weeks before the Nov. 5 election.
Gov. Chris Christie continues to dominate in the 2nd District covering most of Atlantic County, expanding his lead over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono to 30 percentage points. Christie leads 59 percent to 29 percent for Buono, with 11 percent as undecided/other. The margin was 56 percent for Christie and 34 percent for Buono in the Sept. 11 Stockton Poll.
“Voters seem ready to split their ticket in the second legislative district,” said Daniel J. Douglas, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy.
Thirty-six percent have a favorable opinion of Balles, while 22 percent have unfavorable views, with 40 percent saying they are unfamiliar with the candidate. By contrast, only 14 percent are not familiar with incumbent Whelan, a former mayor of Atlantic City, and 61 percent have favorable opinions of him. The incumbent is leading across racial, ethnic, age and gender lines, and is winning support from 24 percent of Republicans. He leads Balles among independents 49-29 percent. Amodeo leads the field with 23 percent, and Brown has 22 percent. Democrat Vincent Mazzeo, the mayor of Northfield, has 21 percent, and Longport Mayor Nick Russo has 19 percent.
The latest poll was conducted with 626 likely voters in the 2nd Legislative District from Oct. 17-20. Live interviewers calling from the Stockton College campus called both landlines and cell phones. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.9 percentage points. The Stockton Polling Institute is part of the Hughes Center at Stockton College.