ATLANTA - Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor is leading Secretary of State Cathy Cox in the Democratic race for governor, according to a poll released by the Taylor campaign on Monday.
It's the first poll to show Taylor in the lead after months of polls have given Cox the advantage, and her campaign quickly questioned the accuracy of his numbers.
The survey of 808 likely voters in the July 18 Democratic primary found Taylor's support at 51 percent with Cox at 30 percent. Political unknown Bill Bolton followed with 1 percent, and 18 percent were undecided.
The poll was among the first conducted since Taylor launched TV ads last month, which reprise his 2002 ads depicting him as "The Big Guy'' looking out for the interests of Georgia's children.
"It is probably helping with his name recognition,'' Taylor campaign spokeswoman Chrissy Noonan said of the ads.
The poll also gave Taylor a 76 percent favorable rating and a positive job-performance rating of 70 percent.
The poll was conducted from May 8-10 by national polling firm Secrest and Associates and had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percent.
Taylor's numbers in his own poll are sharply higher than have been reported in other polls, including a survey done at about the same time.
That poll, conducted from May 5-7 by Strategic Vision LLC - a polling firm that works primarily for Republican candidates - found Cox leading Taylor 47 percent to 42 percent, with 11 percent undecided. Taylor's job-approval rating stood at 53 percent, three points below Cox's.
"Everything we've seen publicly and privately doesn't fit with what we're seeing out of the Taylor campaign,'' said Peter Jackson, spokesman for the Cox campaign.
Taylor was the first candidate for governor to hit the airwaves, launching TV ads in mid-April, two weeks before Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The lieutenant governor's ads portray him as a defender of the popular HOPE Scholarships program and stress his sponsorship this year of PeachKids, a proposal to provide universal health coverage for children.
"Health insurance for all Georgia kids is a big deal, as is restoring cuts to HOPE,'' Noonan said. "All of that is resonating.''
For her part, Cox began running TV ads on Monday with a folksy 30-second spot filmed on the front porch of her childhood home in Bainbridge.
Jackson said Cox has gone on the air at the right time.
"(Taylor) put $1 million into his campaign so he could go up a month early,'' Jackson said. "This (the poll) just seems like an attempt by his campaign to justify that expense.''