House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is inches ahead of Republican state Sen. Dana Young in the battleground race for Tampa-based Senate District 18.
A new survey from St. Pete Polls found Cruz with a point-and-a-half lead over Young with 7 percent of likely voters still undecided, that lead falls well within the poll’s margin of error.
The source of Cruz’s lead stems from a 12-point advantage in the early vote, 54-42 percent — more than two-thirds of those polled said they had already cast their ballots. Young has more than a shred of hope, however, thanks to the voters who are waiting until Election Day favoring her by a wide margin: 53-32 percent.
Nearly one in six respondents who are waiting to cast their ballot said they were undecided. Which way those voters break in the waning hours of the contest could tip the outcome in either direction.
Cruz and Young each earn around three-quarters of their party’s base, with a fifth of GOP voters and the same number of Democrats defecting and voting for the opposing party’s nominee. Among independent voters, Cruz leads 50-41 percent with the remainder still on the fence.
Young has an edge among voters over 70 and those age 50 to 69, while Cruz takes the lead among Millennials and Gen Xers. White voters, who account for 59 percent of SD 18’s voting age population, are breaking prefer Young 52-44 percent.
Meanwhile, Cruz runs up the score among black voters, 73 percent of whom are looking for a change compared to 24 percent who want to stay the course. The tally is closer among Hispanic voters, though Cruz holds a 46-40 edge with 14 percent undecided. Black and Hispanic voters make up a combined 37 percent of the districts voting age population.
Young holds a 5-point edge over Cruz among women, which counters the national trend of female voters preferring Democratic candidates in the 2018 cycle. Male voters prefer Cruz 51-44 percent.
The Young-Cruz battle is among the most competitive state Senate races slated for the 2018 ballot.
Young won the seat 2016 with a plurality of the vote against a much weaker Democratic challenger in a four-way race that saw third-party candidates net 11 percent of the vote. SD 18 is also one of two districts Florida Democrats are targeting this cycle that went for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket two years ago.
Young has dominated the money race, continuing her trend of being one of the most prodigious fundraisers in the Florida Legislature. The latest tally: $983K in hard money and millions in soft for Young versus $500K hard and a million soft for Cruz.
The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted via an automated phone call polling system on Nov. 3. It took responses from 641 voters and the two major parties accounted each accounted for 38 percent of the sample. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
Election Day is Nov. 6.