Kenny Johnson’s campaign for state rep in the 26th District sent out an e-mail Monday morning highlighting his lead in a recent poll. The poll, conducted more than a week ago, reportedly found Johnson favored by 20 percent of voters in the long lakefront district, followed by educator and activist Phillip Jackson with 16 percent and the three other candidates–incumbent Elga Jeffries, former legislative aide Will Burns, and attorney Paul Chadha–each with less than 10 percent. The e-mail quoted the respected Springfield publication Capitol Fax as writing that Johnson was running a “textbook” campaign.

This is clearly big news for the Johnson campaign. It sent out an identical e-mail, with identical poll results, four days ago. 

Minutes after Johnson’s Monday e-mail, the Burns campaign sent out one of its own. “NEW MEDIA POLL TODAY SHOWS BURNS LEADING,” it declared. It too quoted Capitol Fax, which this time cited a poll that gave Burns 22 percent of likely voters, Johnson 19 percent, Jackson 17 percent, Jeffries 12 percent, and Chadha 7 percent. 

The changes, according to Capitol Fax, are likely due to the timing of the candidates’ mailings and phone banking. Not surprisingly, this suggests that the best-funded, best-organized campaigns–which appear to be Johnson’s and Burns’s–are in the best position to win in a race where everyone is talking in various degrees about the same issues: education, jobs, transit, health care, and gun control.

But the other candidates say the conventional wisdom shouldn’t be trusted. A few minutes after the Burns message, Chadha’s campaign suggested it was gaining momentum in an e-mail announcing his endorsement by the Indo-American Democratic Organization. Chadha, the lone Indian-American competing in the mostly black district, says increased Indian-American involvement in politics is a sign of “growing dissatisfaction with the status quo.”

“I’m hoping the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton halo effect brings out voters interested in change, and if they do, I think they’ll vote for me,” he says.

Jeffries argues that people will recognize her hard work even though it was, as she says modestly, “a difficult year in Springfield.”

“The key issues I’m running on are that I’m a lifelong resident of the district and I have a lot to offer. I care about the people in my district,” Jeffries says. “I feel my constituency will do the right thing.”

Jackson promises that his unconventional approach will work out just fine. “Other people have auto-dialers, but we don’t have that. We have people calling up and engaging people. Every time I get on the phone, I pick up four or five votes. We’re beating them the old-fashioned way.”

And not that it matters, but . . .

“We’re leading in the polls,” he says. “Of course we’re leading.”