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Voter registration trends suggest tougher races for Mike La Rosa, Bob Cortes

Democrats’ voter registration gains in greater Orlando spell tougher challenges for several Republicans running in GOP-held Florida House seats, including state Reps. Mike La Rosa and Bob Cortes, whose districts are turning bluer as they seek re-elections this fall.

Central Florida is in many ways mirroring statewide trends in the era of President Donald Trump, with Democratic voters increasing as percentages of the electorates in urban and, increasingly, in suburban areas; while Republicans are gaining voters in more outlying areas that may be parts of the metropolitan media market but center more on smaller cities such as Melbourne, Daytona Beach and Leesburg.

Democrats are seeing improved chances for their ambitions to knock off Republicans in the immediate Sanford-Orlando-Kissimmee corridor and gaining more advantage in their safe urban districts. However, in a few districts farther from the urban core, Republican voter bases are growing. That’s solidifying the GOP’s holds for such seats as House District 52 in north Brevard County and House District 25 in Volusia County, and also making inroads in more purple areas such as House District 27 in western Volusia.

La Rosa’s House District 42, which includes part of Kissimmee but otherwise covers huge, mostly rural parts of Osceola County and some of east Polk County and a few small towns, is a bit of an exception. That’s due in large part to the swell of Democratic voters throughout Osceola County.

Republicans have lost almost 2 percentage points of the HD 42 voter base in the latest book closings for the Aug. 28 primary compared with the 2016 primary. As a result, Democrats in that previously purple district now have almost a 6-point advantage over Republicans in voter registrations.

Democratic HD 42 nominee Barbara Cady said she’s sensing that on the campaign trail, saying voter turnout will be key to her hopes to unseat La Rosa.

“I think it’s going really good. the campaign is terrific. … I think we have a good chance in November,” said the Democratic activist from Kissimmee. “I have a cautious, optimistic sense that it’s just about voter turnout, and that’s what we’re focusing on. If they come out to the polls, we have a really good chance.”

Yet La Rosa, of St. Cloud, is a well-known figure; a three-term representative who has won easy re-elections; chairman of the House Tourism Gaming Control and Tourism Subcommittee; and a strong fundraiser, who’s outraised Cady $158,000 to $42,000.

He said things are going well for his campaign.

“Of course the district is changing. It’s been changing since Day 1 for me and I just do what I need to do to represent the district,” La Rosa said.

As Osceola turns deep blue throughout and HD 42, taking in most of the more conservative areas, is turning pale blue. The latest voter numbers show the HD 42 voter base to be 37 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, and 32 percent independent.

Cortes’ House District 30 in south-central Seminole County is following the lead of that county’s voter base, where Democrats have made the greatest gains, relative to Republicans, since 2016. Democrats picked up 2 percentage points in HD 30, and now have almost a 4-point advantage there, 37.4 percent to 33.5 percent.

Cortes, a two-term lawmaker from Altamonte Springs who is reportedly on U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis’ short list of possible Lieutenant Governor running mates, awaits the Democratic primary to see whom he will face in November. The Democratic battle is between Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil, Brendan Ramirez, and Clark Anderson.

Two other Seminole County districts represented by Republicans, House District 28 with Jason Brodeur and House District 29 with Scott Plakon; and three Orange County districts represented by Republicans, House District 44 with Bobby Olszewski, House District 47 with Mike Miller, and House District 50 (split between Orange and Brevard counties) with Rene Plasencia; also saw Republican voters slipping as percentages of their districts’ overall electorates.

Miller is not seeking re-election in HD 47. Democrats are running activist Anna Eskamani, while lawyer Mikaela Nix and businessman Stockton Reeves VI are battling toward the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

The other four Republican-held districts in Orange and Seminole still have more Republican voters than Democratic voters, but the gaps are shrinking.

In HD 28, where Brodeur is not running for re-election, and where Republican David Smith will be facing Democrat Lee Mangold, Republicans’ advantage is now 5 percentage points, down from seven.

In HD 29, Plakon’s 8-point advantage for Republican voters in 2016 is down to 5 points. He awaits the winner of a Darryl BlockTracey Kagan Democratic primary.

In HD 44, Olszewski’s district, Republican voters had almost a 6-point advantage in 2016, and that’s down to 3. He awaits the winner of the Melanie GoldGeraldine Thompson Democratic primary.

In HD 50, Republicans’ advantage has slipped by almost 2 points, and they now have an advantage of 36 percent to 34 percent for Democrats. Plasencia’s facing his own primary challenge from Republican George Collins, with Democrat Pam Dirschka waiting for next.

Only one Central Florida seat held by Democrats saw any shrinkage of its Democratic voter base compared with Republicans, but that’s a relatively safe seat in Volusia County, House District 26, held by Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry. Even with a 2-point swing toward Republicans in the past two years, the district still is 41 percent Democrat and 30 percent Republican, by voter registration.

Most of the deep-red or deep-blue Central Florida districts got more so in the past two years.

In Republican strongholds, state Rep. Thad Altman’s advantage in House District 52 in Brevard County has increased to slightly, with Republican voters now up 19 percentage points over Democrats. State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan‘s House District 32 in Lake County plus a corner of northwest Orange County, saw Republicans edge up toward a 14 point advantage in voter rolls. House District 51, held in Brevard County by state Rep. Tom Goodson but featuring a Republican primary battle this year between Tyler Sirois and Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, saw Republican voters’ increase to an 11 percent advantage over Democrats.

In Democratic strongholds, state Reps. Bruce Antone in House District 46 in Orange County; John Cortes, in House District 43 in Osceola County; and Kamia Brown, in House District 45 in Orange County, do not have Republican opponents. Here’s why: Democratic voters expanded their dominance in each of those districts to way more than 30 points greater than the percentages of Republican voters.

In partisan contested races, state Rep. Amy Mecado‘s District 48 in Orange County tipped a bit further toward Democrats, who now have a 30-point lead over Republicans there; and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith‘s House District 49 in Orange County saw Democratic advantage grow to be 15 percentage points better than Republicans in voter registration.

NFIB back Tyler Sirois in HD 51 race

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is throwing its support behind Republican Tyler Sirois in the race for Florida House District 51, his campaign announced Tuesday.

Sirois, executive director of the Office of State Attorney for the 18th Judicial Circuit, faces Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. The winner faces Democrat Michael Blake, a teacher and former Cocoa mayor, in the Nov. 6 election.

“NFIB is proud to endorse candidates whose priorities align with those of the small business community,” Bill Herrle, NFIB’s executive director in Florida, stated in a news release issued Tuesday morning by Sirois’s campaign. “The candidates receiving NFIB’s endorsement have a proven track record of supporting small-business issues, and have committed to working with NFIB to help Florida maintain its pro-small-business climate.”

The contest is to succeed Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson to represent HD 51, which covers northeast Brevard County.

“Creating an environment where small business and entrepreneurship can thrive is critical to maintaining a strong Florida economy,” Sirois stated in the news release. “Returning vocational and technical training to our public schools will produce a workforce ready to participate in the small business sector. “

Nurses’ union backs Darren Soto in CD 9 race

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has picked up another endorsement from a reliable Democratic ally in his battle with his predecessor former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for the party primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the country, has endorsed Soto, his campaign announced Monday.

In its endorsement letter, the union said Soto “embodies nurses’ values of caring, compassion and community.”

The winner of the Soto-Grayson primary faces Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the Nov. 6 election. The district covers south Orange County, Osceola County and east Polk County.

“I’m honored to have the support of nurses in our community and nationwide. We must care for the caregivers,” Soto stated in a news release from his campaign. “Nurses, like all workers, deserve wages that can support a family, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize and bargain collectively. Throughout my career, I’ve fought for the working people of Central Florida, and I’m proud to be supported by many unions including the Florida AFL-CIO.”

Orange Republicans pick George Chandler to run in HD 48

Former federal officer George Chandler of Orlando has been picked by the Orange County Republican Party to be the replacement candidate to run for the Florida House of Representatives in House District 48.

Chandler, 62, of Orlando, is the county Republican’s choice as the replacement candidate for Scotland Calhoun, who initially filed in June to run for the post but withdrew two weeks ago after officials learned she is too young to qualify, not turning 21 until next spring.

If all goes well, Chandler will enter the Nov. 6 election battle with incumbent Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando. The district covers parts of south-central and east Orlando. The latest voter registrations show the district is strongly Democrat: 47 percent of registered voters are Democrats; 17 percent are Republicans, and 36 percent are unaffiliated or registered with a minor party.

Chandler is in Tallahassee Monday morning to file his paperwork as a candidate.

He is a real estate agent, and a former officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and for the U.S. Department of Justice, who had, as a young man, served in the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.

Chandler has been very active, including holding leadership positions, in the Freedom High School PTA, the Knights of Columbus, and County Watch, and has been the school choice chairman for Orange County Schools. He also is a former student body president at the University of Central Florida, from 1980.

Stockton Reeves goes after Mikaela Nix’s voting record in HD 47 primary battle

Republican Florida House of Representatives candidate Stockton Reeves VI has attacked the primary voting record of his Aug. 28 primary opponent Mikaela Nix, charging that she’s been a Democrat until recently and doesn’t often vote in primaries, in mailers that were delivered this weekend in House District 47 in Orange County.

“MIkaela Nix wants your vote in the Republican primary… but she’s almost never come out to vote for anyone else,” declares the stark-looking red, black and white mailer.

The mailer unleashed a counter-attack from Nix’s campaign Monday, centering on a newly-filed ethic complain filed Friday against Reeves, involving his personal financial disclosures and campaign finance reports.

Reeves’ new mailer includes a breakout of Nix’s voting record in the past seven primaries showing that she was a Democrat in 2006 and 2008 and did not vote in 2002, ’04, ’12 or ’16.

“When our Republican leaders needed every vote, Mikaela Nix couldn’t bother to show up,” the mailer declares.

Nix’s campaign responded Monday morning by counter-charging that Reeves is going negative with misleading information because he’s trying to deflect attention from financial discrepencancies and other matters that Nix’s campaign is seeking to highlight in Reeves’ campaign finance and financial disclosure reports. Her campaign also contends that she switched party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in college after learning more about party ideologies in college.

But Reeves maintains that Republican voters need to know Nix’s record, or lack of record, in voting Republican.

The two are squaring off Aug. 28 in the Republican primary seeking a chance to run against Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani. The district covers north-central Orange County, including downtown Orlando. Incumbent Republican state Rep. Mike Miller is not seeking re-election because he is running for Congress.

“You’ve got an individual who is trying to portray herself one way when she is, factually, something quite different,” Reeves said Monday. “You can say, ‘lifelong conservative.’ But she’s running in a Republican primary, and I think it’s important for voters to know these things. First, she’s not a lifelong Republican; and second, her voting record is abysmal.”

Reeves said he himself registered as a Republican voter before his 18th birthday – legal in the 1980s. And he maintained he has voted in every election since.

“If you’re asking people to make you someone who casts votes in Tallahassee on a variety of issues, I think you should have an intererst in voting in elections, in participating. It’s that simple,” Reeves said.

Nix’s campaign responded Monday by charging that Reeves’ financial disclosures appeared to be hiding something, as they at least initially showed fewer assets than would be necessary for him to lend his own campaign $90,000, as he did last year.

Last Friday former Orange County Republican Executive Committee offiical Scott Prosinowski filed an ethics complaint against Reeves alleging “significant omissions.”

Reeves said his initial financial disclosure filings were not as detailed as they could be and that he is filing an addendum to clarify the matter.

Nix’s campaign also cited a 1994 Orange County political lawsuit case in which Reeves, then a political consultant, and others were ordered by a circuit court judge to stop making a false claim against an opposing candidate.

“Stockton Reeves has a history or running negative and misleading campaigns, and he’s doing it again against Mikaela,” Nix campaign manager Zac Stone said in a written statement. “A judge even ordered him to stop at one time. It’s obvious why he’s doing it; he doesn’t want the voters to know about his financial problems, that he has an ethics complaint filed against him, and that he’s unsuccessfully run for office so many times.”

“As for Mikaela’s voting record, she joined the Republican Party after taking a ideology class in college. Most find that refreshing and Mikaela has made that part of her story,” stated Stone. “She’s been a Republican for ten years and started voting in Primaries in 2014. Before that, she was either in college, law school and in her twenties.”

Pete Clarke charges Jerry Demings failed to act to protect school students

Orange County mayoral candidate and County Commissioner Pete Clarke charged his election rival Sheriff Jerry Demings with failing to do what was necessary to provide enough deputies to protect students in Orange County Public Schools at today’s start of the school year.

Clarke is citing an exchange of memoranda between current Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Demings late last week, in which the sheriff said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office will need several additional months to provide enough sworn officers to have resource officers at all schools, even though the county authorized funding this summer in the wake of the state law passed in April as a response to the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“On the first day of school, Sheriff Demings said an additional 5 months and additional deputies were needed. Where was he in March when the law was signed?” Clarke declared in a news release issued Monday morning by his campaign,. “We did our part, and he failed to do his.”

Demings and Clarke are locked in a three-way battle with businessman Rob Panepinto heading toward the Aug. 28 election. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two advance to an Nov. 6 election showdown.

Later Monday morning, Panepinto jumped into the matter.

“As our kids head back to school today, Mayor Teresa Jacobs is working overtime to clean up Sheriff Jerry Demings’ mess,” Panepinto said in a written statement. “Sheriff Demings promised last Wednesday during our televised mayoral debate that our schools would have the resource officers needed to keep our kids safe. Yet by Friday he suddenly had to admit he didn’t have enough deputies or funding for the school resource officers, even though he had returned millions of dollars back to the county.”

Late Monday, Demings responded with a written statement that read, in part, “It’s deeply disappointing that my opponents in the race for mayor would politicize the issue of school safety.

“Over last 30 years, I have a proven track record of making the safety of our children a top priority.”

In his memo to Jacobs sent on Friday, Demings contended the sheriff’s office will need to add 75 deputies, and that manpower needs to be approved by the Orange County Board of County Commissioners before the hiring and training can begin. “Realistically, even though the funding may be available, initially, the sheriff’s office would not be able to hire that many qualified officers to meet the requirement. Until the new SRO’s can be hired and trained, overtime details of existing deputies will be used in conjunction with OCPS police to provide daily patrols of all public schools in unincorporated Orange County,” he wrote.

Demings then requested commission approval for 75 deputies to satisfy the mandate of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In the meantime, he said he has temporarily assigned 38 additioanl deputies to be school resource officers.

“Although these new positions will be employed as soon possible at an estimated cost of $11.2 million dollars, it still will take several months or longer to be fully deployed,” Demings wrote.

Clarke responded with frustration as a member of the board of commissioners.

“The sheriff had the resources, failed to use them, and only needed to make a request if he needed more,” Clarke stated in a release issued Monday. “Every school should be provided a full time resource officer. The safety of our children is of paramount importance, and all resources should have been used to ensure the safety of our students. We have an obligation as public servants to plan appropriately and take action when action is needed.”

Joy Goff-Marcil endorsed by Alex Sink

Democratic Florida House of Representatives candidate Joy Goff-Marcil has received the endorsement of former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the House District 30 race.

“Joy has served her hometown of Maitland thoughtfully as their Vice Mayor and on the council where she had to tackle difficult decisions. She did so by asking the right questions and by making her vote about her entire community, not just a few voices. We need that call to action at the state level,” the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial nomineee stated in a news release issued by Goff-Marcil’s campaign.

“Joy is someone who will represent the interests of all of us, not just special interests. I applaud her passion for public education, clean waterways, sensible gun legislation and small businesses. I know with her ability to work with all sides we will take back our state and put all Floridians first again,” Sink added.

Goff-Marcil, a member of the Maitland City Council, is in an Aug. 28 Democratic primary battle with Clark Anderson of Winter Park and Brendan Ramirez of Orlando for the nomination to run in HD 30 against Republican incumbent state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs. The district straddles the countyline to include parts of south-central Seminole County and north-central Orange County.

“Joy is thrilled to have received Alex Sink’s endorsement,” her campaign stated.

Scott Sturgill, Ron DeSantis, Ashley Moody top Sanford chamber’s poll

Republican congressional candidate Scott Sturgill, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, and Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody all came out on top in a straw poll conducted Thursday night at a Sanford Chamber of Commerce political hobnob.

The victory for Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, continues his streak of straw poll wins in Seminole County in what has been a bruising overall battle for the Aug. 28 Republican primary for Florida’s 7th Congressional District against Winter Park-based state Rep. Mike Miller, who has been winning most such polls in the Orange County side of the district.

The Aug. 28 primary for that CD 7 race will have about 58,000 eligible Republican voters in Orange and 110,000 in Seminole.

There were more than 340 votes cast in the most popular races surveyed Thursday night at the chamber’s “Last Hoorah Sanford HobNob.” In that, Miller finished a distant third in the CD 7 question.

Sturgill was selected as the favorite by 43 percent of the attendees, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy by 33 percent; and Miller, 20 percent. Murphy’s challenger from the left in the Democratic primary, Chardo Richardson, grabbed 4 percent, while a third Republican, Vennia Francois didn’t even claim 1 percent, as she got three votes out of 342 cast in that question.

“Winning in Sanford was a great way to end hobnob season,” Sturgill declared in a news release issued by his campaign. “I’ve built my business here and this is where I call home. This is where the entire campaign started with my announcement last July.”

The straw poll marked a rare victory for U.S. Rep. DeSantis in Central Florida hobnob straw polls, though he has been dominating statewide Republican voter polls for the past month. DeSantis grabbed 28 percent of the Sanford chamber markers, to 23 percent for his Republican primary rival Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

In that survey, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was the highest-standing Democrat in the Governor’s field, taking 17 percent; while former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham got 13 percent; former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene each picked up 4 percent; and Winter Park businessman Chris King got 2 percent.

Moody, the former judge from Tampa, continued her dominance of Central Florida hobnob straw polls, leading the Attorney General question by drawing 42 percent of the markers. Her Republican primary opponent state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola finished third. Democratic Attorney General frontrunner Sean Shaw took 25 percent, and White 20 percent. The other major Democrat, Ryan Torrens, was favored by 11 percent.

In every race on the ballot that has partisan competition, Republicans took the top spot in the Sanford Chamber’s straw poll, typical of chambers of commerce polls.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott was the pick in Florida’s U.S. Senate race of 54 percent of the participants, with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson winning over 40 percent.

Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis got 62 percent of the votes for his bid to stay in office, while Democratic challenger former state Sen. Jeremy Ring got 38 percent.

Republican State Rep. Matt Caldwell topped the straw poll in the race for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, favored by 32 percent; followed by Democrat Nikki Fried, 20 percent; and state Sen. Denise Grimsley, 15.

Republican David Smith was the top choice to succeed outgoing Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur in House District 28, topping Democrat Lee Mangold 64-36.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon got 55 percent in his re-election bid, while his Democratic challengers Tracey Kagan and Darryl Block got 28 and 17 percent, respectively.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes got 61 percent for his re-election bid, while his Democratic challengers Joy Goff-Marcil, Brendan Ramirez, and Clark Anderson took 14, 14, and 11 respectively.

Victor Torres, Carlos Smith, Amy Mercado rip Rick Scott on education

Three Democratic Orange County lawmakers joined with the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association Thursday to bash Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s record on public education.

Outside the offices of the Orange County Public Schools headequarters in Orlando, State Sen. Victor Torres and state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado all went after the governor for education budget cuts he pushed through in the early years of his first term and consistent efforts throughout both terms to route more tax money into private charter schools.

There’s no immediate legislative effort the lawmakers might be addressing. However, Scott is in a tight battle with Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the election challenge for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat this fall, and the trio of Orlando lawmakers stepped in as surrogates for Nelson’s campaign, and to throw fuel into the upcoming gubernatorial primary, where Torres and Mercado have endorsed Democrat Gwen Graham and Smith, Democrat Andrew Gillum.

A spokeswoman for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign called the Democrats’ claims against Scott “ridiculous.”

The Democrats laid it on heavy.

But Torres said they also want to keep up constant pressure on public opinion, even several months away from the start of committee work for the next Legislative Session. “We have to keep sending the message to everybody,” he said.

“Rick Scott has imposed immense hardships on our public schools for the past eight years,” Torres declared. “Republican budget deals under Rick Scott were giveaways to charter schools at the expense of the public school system. Thanks to Rick Scott and Republican legislators, public schools have had to contend with underfunding year after year. We need a change, and Rick Scott is not the answer.”

Of the three Democratic lawmakers, only Smith faces a challenger in this year’s elections, with a late-entry, well-financed campaign by Republican Ben Griffin. Mercado had a Republican challenger, but she dropped out last week, and Orange County Republicans are seeking a replacement.

Griffin commented on the press conference in a written statement by declaring “it’s a shame that my opponent uses his time for a photo op with the local union that advocate for policies that keep low income children in failing schools during an election.”

“Rick Scott has been horrible for our public school system. In his first year as governor, Scott rolled out a proposal that would’ve cut our schools by billions of dollars. Even Republicans in the legislature thought Rick Scott’s public education cuts were too cruel to our public schools,” Smith said.

“Florida under Scott has systematically moved us towards a universal voucher system, and now, we are spending huge amounts of taxpayer money to move resources into private schools. Why, because Rick Scott wants give even more money to people like Betsy DeVos who continue to profit off our education system,” he said, referencing the controversial U.S. Education Secretary who has ties to Orlando. “And our teachers and public school students are paying the price.”

“As a proud mom of six children, I am disgusted by Rick Scott’s neglect towards our public schools,” Mercado said. “Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature continue to attack and abuse our state education system. They inappropriately fund public schools while openly funneling money to private corporations under the guise of school choice. We must stop this insanity.”

They were joined by Orange County Classroom Teachers Association President Wendy Doromal.

“Rick Scott deserves an F on education issues,” she said. “Since he was elected, Rick Scott has headed a campaign to dismantle Florida’s public education system brick by brick. He has done incredible harm to students, teachers, and public education as a whole. Florida has one of the highest rates of teacher turnover in the nation. We cannot recruit or retain enough qualified teachers under these conditions. Under Scott, Florida’s public schools are underfunded, over regulated, and set up for failure.”

“These claims are ridiculous. Clearly, Democrats have no choice but to continue to use misleading and negative attacks in order to hide the fact that career politician Bill Nelson has no accomplishments to run on,” said Scott’s campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone.

“Over the past seven and a half years, Gov. Scott has fought to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed and receive a world-class education. That’s why he worked to invest record amounts in K-12 education, secure the first statewide teacher pay raise in state history, and expand school choice so students and parents have more options to choose what works best for them,” she added.

Griffin’s statement about Smith continued: If he actually did his homework, he’d highlight Florida’s graduation rate hitting a 14 year high under the Republican majority legislature, including 84.7% in Orange County. Unlike my opponent, I am spending my time going door to door talking to voters who believe that parents, not politicians, should be able to decide which school best meets their child’s needs, regardless of their address or income.”

Poll: Darren Soto leads Alan Grayson 45%-38% in CD 9 race

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto leads former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, his predecessor and challenger in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 9th Congressional District, according to a poll announced Wednesday night by Spectrum 13 News in Orlando.

The poll was announced at the start of a debate Wednesday night in Kissimmee by Spectrum 13 News anchors Eric Levy and Ybeth Bruzual, who said the station commissioned the poll.

Its results: Soto drew 45 percent and Grayson 38 percent, with 17 percent undecided heading toward the Aug. 28 primary, the station announced. The poll surveyed 875 registered Democrats and showed a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Grayson immediately took issue with the poll, declaring, “We’ve polled people who have already voted. Among people who have already voted I have an eight-point lead. So that shows voters prefer me, and non-voters favor my opponent.”

The two are battling in one of the most hostile primary fights in the state, and the debate Thursday night began with them immediately going after each other.

The poll also cited the economy [20 percent,] education [19,] and immigration [16,] topping the list of concerns among Democrats polled in CD 9, followed by national security [11.] Grayson complained that interest in impeaching President Donald Trump was not on the list.

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