Washington (CNN) - Early voting begins Monday in the District of Columbia, 15 days before the crucial primaries.
The start of early voting comes one day after a new Washington Post poll indicates Mayor Adrian Fenty trails his Democratic challenger, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, by double digits. Since Democrats dominate elections in the city, the winner of the Democratic primary will be considered the overwhelming favorite in the November general election.
According to the survey, Gray leads Fenty 49 to 36 percent among registered Democratic voters. But his lead swells to 53 to 36 percent among those likely to cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
The poll indicates that most Democrats polled give the mayor credit for his accomplishments during his term in office and say he brought needed change to the city. But voters are split on whether Fenty, who's running for a second term, is willing to listen to different points of view and whether he understands the problems of people like them. And by a 13-point margin, a plurality say the mayor's not honest and trustworthy.
A majority of African-Americans, who make up the majority of the district's Democratic voters, are critical to Fenty, according to the poll. Sixty-four percent of African-American registered Democrats say they are supporting Gray, with less than one in five backing Fenty. On the other hand, Fenty has a 64 to 28 percent advantage among whites.
Gray, who jumped into the race in late March, says he's better equipped to handle the city's racial and class divides. Following the release of the poll, Fenty told reporters that it's time the media takes a closer look at Gray, whom he accuses of ethical lapses.
Early voting runs through Monday, September 13, with the primary one day later.
The Washington Post poll was conducted August 19-26, with 780 registered Democrats questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for registered voters and plus or minus five percentage points for likely voters.