The first general election season poll of the Senate District 18 battle brought some good news for incumbent state Sen. Dana Young.
The St. Pete Polls survey shows the Tampa Republican with a 3-point lead, 45-42 percent, over House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. The remaining 13 percent of voters are undecided.
The poll shows an improvement for Young over St. Pete Polls’ prior survey of the race, conducted in July. That measure showed Cruz with a 1-point lead over Young, 44-43 percent, with the same level of undecided voters.
In the three months since that poll, Cruz’ share of her Democratic base has slipped from 70 percent to 64 percent, with about half of those voters now sitting on the fence and the remainder declaring they will support Young in November.
Also of note is a tightening of the race among no- and third-party voters. In July, Cruz held a 15 percentage point lead among independent voters. That lead has been cut in half, as Young’s share among that crowd has increased from 34 percent to 40 percent.
Broken down by race, Young leads Cruz 49-41 percent among white voters, who make up 59 percent of the electorate according to the most recently available demographic information. Hispanic voters, who make up 28 percent of the district, prefer Young 43-41 percent. Cruz holds a 2-to-1 lead among black voters, though that represents a decline from her 67-18 percent lead three months ago.
By age, Cruz leads 49-41 percent among Millennials while Young holds a lead with Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, all of whom make up a much larger share of SD 18’s electorate.
The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted on Sept. 16 by an automated phone call polling system. It received responses from 988 registered voters who indicated they planned to vote in the general election. Registered Democrats and registered Republicans each made up 38 percent of the sample. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip in the fall and, as evidenced by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s recent spending on an attack ad targeting Cruz, the state GOP is aggressively defending the swing seat.
The district covers much of Tampa and has a close partisan split in voter registrations. SD 18 voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote in a four-way race between her, Democratic nominee Bob Buesing and NPA candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.
The 2018 ballot will not be as crowded, with Cruz and Young being the only names printed on the ballot. Neither candidate faced a challenger in the August primary elections, leaving both candidates with substantial war chests for the general.
Young, however, has a near-threefold fundraising lead and shows no sign of slowing down.
At the end of August, Young had about $460,000 in hard money with another $1.38 million banked in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. Cruz, meanwhile, has raised $680,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Building The Bay PC, but has spent nearly $450,000 of that cash in recent weeks, most of it on advertising, leaving her with just $15,000 in hard money and $150,000 in committee cash at the end of August.
Election Day is Nov. 6.