Carrie Pilon Archives - Florida Politics

Jeff Brandes is sitting on a gold mine compared to challenger, Lindsay Cross

State Senator Jeff Brandes continues to grow his fundraising lead over his Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross, making the already steep climb even more treacherous. Between his campaign and an affiliated political committee, Brandes has raised more than $2 million to keep his seat.

Cross has raised just $156,000 and does not have a political committee.

Brandes’ political might and well-connected stature in political circles are clear in his continued campaign hauls.

Brandes’ political committee raised $13,500 this report including $5,000 from the medical marijuana company Surterra, $5,000 from the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, $2500 from Florida Right Solutions, a political action committee chaired by conservative strategist Marc Reichelderfer and $1000 from the skin care practice Dermazone Solutions.

Brandes raised more than $40,000 for his campaign fund from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5, the most recent campaign reports available. That includes a $27,000 in-kind contribution from the Florida Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Major donors included Surterra, Realtor’s Political Advocacy Committee, the People’s Trust PAC, Johnson & Blanton, Johnson & Associates, Florida Right Solutions, Florida Home Builders Association ION PAC, Duke Energy PAC, Covanta Energy, and American Fire Sprinkler Association.

Brandes brought in just five contributions from donors in the Tampa Bay region.

Not including in-kind contributions, Brandes brought in 17 individual contributions averaging $824 each. The maximum contribution allowable is $1,000.

Cross raised $17,000 during the latest reporting period from 101 individual contributions averaging $168 each. She received five out-of-state contributions from Elizabeth Williams in New Mexico, Elizabeth Lyman in Maine, Jill Cranberry in Colorado, Megan Caroll in California and Joy Bartholomew in Maryland.

Brandes’ spending slowed down this month. He doled out $4,800 including $3,500 to Political Capital for consulting services and $1,100 to Extensive Enterprises for advertising. Extensive Enterprises publishes this website.

Meanwhile, Cross hasn’t spent anything recently. Since the inception of her campaign, Cross paid $20,000 to Washington D.C.-based 76 Words for media buys and $6,300 to Resonance Campaigns, a Democratic digital media firm.

She’s spent a total of $36,000 to date.

Cross entered the race at a disadvantage. She replaced Carrie Pilon after the former candidate bowed out due to sudden health issues arose with a family member. That gave Cross a late start in the campaign.

Despite being the fundraising underdog, the Cross campaign is hitting the campaign trail with ferocity. The team is spreading a message based on environmental policy, education reform that does not prioritize school choice programs, transportation and health care, among others. She said her message is resonating with voters thirst for a change in Tallahassee.

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Jeff Brandes still up double digits in SD 24 re-election battle

St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is sitting pretty a month out from Election Day according to a new poll of his contest against Democratic nominee Lindsay Cross.

A new St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, found the longtime lawmaker with an 11-point lead over Cross, 52-41 percent with the remaining 7 percent of voters in the Pinellas County district unsure how they’ll vote come November.

The fresh poll, conducted Oct. 6 and 7, shows a marked decrease in undecided voters from St. Pete Polls’ previous measure. That poll, released in mid-August, showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross, putting them both behind “undecided,” which accounted for 42 percent of likely voters.

Brandes’ lead skyrockets among the one-in-seven voters who said they had already cast their ballot. That crowd preferred the U.S. Army veteran by a 32 percent margin, though 6 percent of them said they were “undecided” — whether that means the SD 24 contest will present a bundle of undervotes or that the Pinellas electorate is suffering from memory loss is unclear.

The race was tighter among those who said they hadn’t voted yet but that they planned on making it to the polls, with Brandes pulling an even 50 percent of the vote to Cross’ 42 percent.

Other good news for Brandes: 51 percent of likely SD 24 voters said they had a favorable view of President Donald Trump, giving him a plus-6 favorability rating within the boundaries of the southern Pinellas seat. That rating represents a 1 percentage point drop from the margin-of-victory SD 24 voters handed Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Brandes also scored high marks among his constituents, who see him favorably by a 49-27 percent margin. He fared even better among those who’ve already ticked a box, earning a plus-39 percent favorability rating. Those who haven’t voted yet look poised to stay the course as well. They see the incumbent positively by a 19-point margin.

The St. Pete Republican also got a boost on Monday by way of an endorsement from FMA PAC, the political arm of the Florida Medical Association.

“The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Senator Jeff Brandes for re-election. We’ve worked closely with him during his time in the House and Senate and we look forward to continuing our work to ensure Florida patients have the very best health care,” said committee president Mike Patete.

Cross, meanwhile, is improving but still treading water when it comes to name ID. She earned a plus-5 favorability rating overall; a minus-8 among early voters; and a plus 8 among those who’ve yet to vote.

In each instance, however, more than a quarter of respondents said they didn’t know enough to have an opinion on Cross, who recently left as executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Brandes’ lead is partially attributable to his strong support among Republicans and independent voters, whom he leads 81-15 percent and 47-42 percent, respectively. The Democratic base isn’t as keen on Cross — 70 percent of Dem voters said they would back her, but a fifth say they’re on Team Brandes.

Further down the poll, Brandes holds a clear lead among nearly every slice of the electorate. He holds a 16-point lead among non-Hispanic white voters, who make up 90 percent of the voting age population according to U.S. Census data. He also edges out Cross among men, women, Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers and older voters.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going for Trump in 2016.

Cross entered the race at the end of July, a few weeks after Florida Democrat’s prior pick, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithdrew from the contest due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member. During her brief tenure in the race, Pilon worked up from a 9-point deficit in late May to within striking distance by early July.

Though Cross had a lot of ground to gain in name recognition, she’s also been vastly outraised by Brandes, who has raised nearly $919,000 in hard money, including $300,000 from his personal fortune. Adding in the $433,000 he has socked away in his political committee, Liberty Florida, Brandes had $858,000 left to spend on Sept. 28.

Cross, meanwhile, only just broke the six-figure mark for her campaign account and had about $65,000 banked through the same date.

The St. Pete Polls survey received 770 responses from registered voters within SD 24’s borders and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Bill Galvano (Left) and Wilton Simpson (Right)

Top Senate Republicans raising cash for Tampa Bay candidates on Monday

State Senate President Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will be in Tampa next Friday to help four area Senate candidates boost their campaign accounts ahead of the November general election.

The Sept. 17 event will be held in the Snowy Egret Room on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt, 2900 Bayport Drive, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The invitation doesn’t list a suggested contribution for attendees, though it does ask that they send their RSVPs to Myost@FRSCC.org or call (813) 965-1043.

The reception will benefit the re-election efforts of incumbent Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Dana Young of Tampa, while also providing a boost to former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is the party’s nominee in the race for Pinellas- and Pasco-based Senate District 16.

Lee, Brandes, Young, and Hooper are all running in seats being targeted by Florida Democrats in the fall, though Brandes is likely safe because the candidate initially recruited by the party, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithdrew because of the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

He now faces Lindsay Cross, and recent polls show that he has a 39-19 percent lead with 42 percent of voters undecided. He also has more than $890,000 on hand between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, while Cross has managed to build only a $44,250 war chest since tagging in for Pilon at the end of July.

Young and Hooper face much tougher battles, however.

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Senate District 18, and though she holds a strong fundraising advantage, polling has shown the two Tampanians neck and neck with Cruz holding a slim advantage.

To give Young a boost, the Galvano-chaired Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee recently stepped in with a new TV ad dogging Cruz for her past property tax blunders.

It’s the same situation in Senate District 16, where Hooper is up against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy — despite a sixfold money advantage and hitting TV early on, Hooper trailed Murphy by two points in an early August poll of their general election showdown.

Lee’s Senate District 20 is the safest of the bunch. He won re-election without opposition two years ago, when the seat also voted plus-8 for President Donald Trump. Through the end of August, Lee had $122,500 in hard money while his opponent, Wesley Chapel Democrat Kathy Lewis, had virtually exhausted her $17,850 in campaign fundraising during her primary contest against Tampa Democrat Joy Gibson.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

FRSCC fundraiser invitation

Brandes up big in first SD 24 poll since Lindsay Cross tagged in

Knocking off St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes was always a long shot, and the first measure of the race since Lindsay Cross subbed in for Carrie Pilon shows those slim chances dwindling further.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Brandes has the support of nearly 39 percent of Senate District 24 voters, giving him a better than 2-to-1 lead over Cross, who was the pick for an even 19 percent of those polled. With 42 percent of voters undecided, there’s room for growth for both candidates.

Cross entered the race at the end of last month, a few weeks after the prior Democratic nominee, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, withdrew from the contest due to the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

During her brief tenure in the race, Pilon worked up from a 9-point deficit in late May to within striking distance by early July. Cross will certainly see major gains in her poll numbers as Election Day approaches, though her poor showing in this inaugural measure is a bitter reminder that just because one candidate made headway by putting in some elbow grease, doesn’t mean another can swoop in and reap the benefits.

When it comes to name ID, she’s got a lot of work to do.

Brandes is a known quantity to 59 percent of SD 24 voters, and they find him favorable by a margin of 39-20. Cross, meanwhile, is known by just 27 percent of the district and those who offered their opinion gave her a somewhat lukewarm 21-16 favorability rating.

In addition to playing catchup on the name ID front, Cross needs to bring in some cold hard cash, pronto. Brandes, through Aug. 3, had nearly $863,000 in the bank between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, and that’s after more than $807,000 in spending since the 2018 campaign cycle began.

As it stands, it’s unclear whether Cross is hunkering down to put in the work needed to put SD 24 in play.

According to her first campaign finance report, which to be fair only covered a partial week, she’s brought in just $3,000 in monetary contributions. One would expect Cross and her family, close friends, longtime co-workers and acquaintances to pitch in and jumpstart the campaign to build some buzz.

A typical candidate would have made the calls and had the checks ready for day 1 — Pilon did as much when she pulled together $100K for her inaugural reports.

The problem may be a bit deeper, however, as sources familiar with the Cross campaign say she is fresh off a European vacation and hasn’t quite returned to the day-to-day grind — If true, she better return from the clouds tout suite, or the conversation will quickly shift to the degree of electoral embarrassment she can expect come Election Day.

Of the cash she did bring in, two-thirds came from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, stretched-thin pot of money overseen by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson. The other $1,000 came from self-employed property manager Sidney Smith Wilson.

Gibson’s fund also threw in another $25,000 to kickstart research efforts, as well as buy a campaign computer and cell phone. While fronting that cash would be a no-brainer for the ever-flush Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, it is a much more significant investment for the FDLCC, which had $400,000 in the bank at last check in.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Aug. 11-12 and received responses from 757 likely general election voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Lindsay Cross takes over Democratic bid for SD 24 after Carrie Pilon’s departure

It has been more than three weeks since Carrie Pilon announced she was ending her bid to unseat St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes in state Senate District 24.

Now, Florida Democrats have settled on her replacement.

Lindsay Cross, an environmental scientist who works as executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, will pick up where Pilon left off. It gives her just over three months to cobble together a campaign to take on the incumbent Republican.

“I’m running for State Senate because all residents in Senate District 24 need an advocate who works for them, not for special interests,” Cross said in announcing her candidacy Monday afternoon. “As a member of the State Senate, I’ll invest in the people of our district by ensuring a quality education, affordable healthcare, protecting our drinking water and environment, and buffering our local and tourist based-businesses from the effects of pollution and climate change.”

Pilon announced her withdrawal from the SD 24 race on July 6, and Florida Democrats faced a Monday deadline to pick her replacement. As of midmorning, the party had not issued a formal news release announcing Cross as their nominee in the Pinellas County district.

According to her Florida Wildlife Corridor bio, Cross has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 2001 and spent 14 years with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program “working to protect and restore water quality and coastal and upland habitats.”

“Having led an environmental non-profit, I fully appreciate the importance of Florida’s natural resources on every aspect of our lives,” Cross said. “Moreover, I understand how to balance a budget and keep spending focused on priorities that will make a difference.”

During that time, she earned a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of South Florida and graduated from the University of Florida’s Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute and the St. Petersburg Chamber’s Leadership St. Pete program.

Polling consistently shows SD 24 as winnable for a Democratic candidate. A survey conducted by St. Pete Polls days ahead of Pilon’s exit showed her within five points of Brandes with 13 percent of voters undecided.

Despite the hopeful measures for Democrats, the truncated campaign cycle gives Cross little time to build name recognition or raise the kind of money needed to take on Brandes, who had $464,000 in hard money and another $369,000 in his political committee, Liberty Florida, as of July 20.

The past three weeks have also seen Brandes ramp up his ground operation in the district, giving him a massive head start in voter outreach.

The good news for Cross: She faces no opposition in the primary, nor are there any third-party candidates running to siphon away Democratic-leaning residents already inclined to vote blue rather than send Brandes back to Tallahassee.

She and Brandes will go head-to-head in the Nov. 6 general election.

The first inkling of Cross’ fundraising ability will come Aug. 10, in a campaign finance report covering the first few days of her candidacy. Her first full-week report is due Aug. 17.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Jeff Brandes holding ‘Super Saturday’ canvassing event

Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is gearing up for his re-election bid with a “Super Saturday” canvassing event in St. Petersburg-based Senate District 24.

“Come show your support for Jeff Brandes! Join us on July 14 at 9:00 a.m. at Crisp Park in St. Petersburg for coffee and donuts. Help Senator Brandes spread his message by knocking on voters doors in nearby neighborhoods. Then at 12:30 p.m. we’ll meet at Green Bench Brewery for lunch and drinks,” the event listing says.

Crisp Park is located at the intersection of 37th Avenue NE and Poplar Street NE in St. Petersburg; Green Bench Brewery is located at 1133 Baum Ave. North. Those looking to attend can sign up to volunteer on the Facebook event listing.

Brandes, a lifelong resident of St. Pete, is running for his final term in the Florida Senate. He was first elected in 2012 and was a member of the Florida House for the two years prior.

Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon was slated to be his opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, though she recently withdrew from the race, citing serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

With Pilon’s exit, the Florida Democratic Party must now recruit another nominee to pick up the baton for the last four months of the 2018 cycle — a tough task only made tougher by Brandes’ prolific fundraising.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County. The GOP has a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted in favor of Barack Obama twice before being carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Jeff Brandes

Jeff Brandes piles on cash as Florida Democrats scramble to replace Carrie Pilon

St. Petersburg Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes doesn’t know who he’ll be up against come Election Day, but that hasn’t stopped donors from pouring beaucoup bucks into his political committee.

A newly filed campaign finance report for Liberty Florida shows the Senate District 24 incumbent reeled in a six-figure haul from a crop of well-known donors in the last week of June.

Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a candidate for Senate President in 2022, chipped in $15,000 via her Working Together For Florida political committee and Miami-based air cargo company Florida Cargo Fresh matched her while U.S. Sugar and AIF-affiliated Floridians for a Stronger Democracy each showed up at the $10,000 level.

AT&T, Allstate and GEICO also made the donor sheet with smaller contributions.

In all, Liberty Florida cashed 17 checks worth a combined $103,500 during the week and now has more than $350,000 in the bank. Brandes’ campaign account is even more flush with cash — he had $467,250 in hard money three-quarters of the way through June.

The committee cash came a week before one-time challenger Carrie Pilon’s announcement that she would abdicate her spot on the ballot due to serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

SD 24 has a slight Republican lean. It voted for Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump two years ago, and 2018 polling has consistently shown it was possible for a Democratic candidate to flip it — a recent survey conducted by St. Pete Polls put Pilon within five points of Brandes.

With Pilon’s exit, however, the Florida Democratic Party must now recruit another nominee to pick up the baton for the last four months of the 2018 cycle — a tough task only made tougher by Brandes’ prolific fundraising.

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Carrie Pilon, Democratic challenger to Jeff Brandes, withdraws from state Senate race

Carrie Pilon, the Democrat trial attorney challenging incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes in a battleground state Senate district, has withdrawn from the race.

Citing serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member, Pilon said, in a statement first provided to Florida Politics, that it is “impossible for me to continue forward and give the campaign the attention that it deserves.”

The first sign that something was amiss with Pilon’s campaign came last week, when the most recent campaign finance reports showed that Pilon’s fundraising efforts had dramatically trailed off. That report showed just $6,730 in hard money fundraising.

This led to speculation at last weekend’s annual gathering of Florida Democrats that Pilon was on the verge of exiting the race.

Democrat insiders attempted to persuade Pilon to stay in the race, although many were unaware of the personal issues affecting Pilon’s ability to engage in the campaign fully.

Polling has consistently shown SD 24 is winnable for a Democratic candidate. A recent survey conducted by St. Pete Polls put Pilon within five points of Brandes.

Pilon’s campaign got off to an inauspicious start.

Shortly after she made her announcement launching her campaign, Brandes touted the endorsement of Pilon’s father-in-law, Ray Pilon, a former state Representative who is seeking to return to the Legislature.

Asked by Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune if he wanted to elaborate on his decision to back Brandes publicly over his daughter-in-law, Pilon noted in a text message that as a member of the Republican Party of Sarasota’s executive committee he is prohibited from endorsing a Democrat. But that did not mean he had to support Brandes. He could have stayed quiet about the race.

Still, Pilon would go on to earn her own endorsements, mostly from other Democrats. She also raised $150,000 for her bid, no easy feat against an incumbent lawmaker.

Democrats were hopeful that in this election cycle, with its record number of women candidates, that Pilon could put SD 24 in their column.

Because she has withdrawn after the candidate qualifying period, the Democratic Party will select a replacement for Pilon. According to her campaign, the party has already identified several potential candidates.

The Democrats may end up fielding a candidate, but it’s likely that Pilon was their best bet. She was just the kind of candidate — smart enough to hold her own against the wonky Brandes, but unknown enough not to have too many negatives for his campaign to exploit — who could have given the Republican a real run.

“As a daughter of an elderly dad, I am keenly aware of what Carrie’s family is going through,” said state Sen. Audrey Gibson, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate. “Her struggle is all too familiar to thousands of families across our state, and we must do a better job of helping them.

“The Democratic Caucus of the Florida Senate was attracted to Carrie as a candidate because she has been a leader in her local community and knows how to solve problems,” Gibson added. “I have no doubt she will continue to serve her community and make Florida better. Our thanks to Carrie for carrying the mantle thus far.”

Florida Democrats’ ambition of flipping the state Senate probably ends with Pilon’s withdrawal.

Senate Democrats are also faced with the conundrum of how to fund the slate of challengers they have recruited as part of a broader effort to win control of the Chamber. The Dems have quality candidates in four other races (versus Republicans Keith Perry, Kelli Stargel, Dana Young and Ed Hooper), but probably only have the money to fund two or three full-fledged state Senate campaigns.

While Pilon’s supporters and the Democrats may be disappointed in her decision to withdraw from the race, there is one community undoubtedly relieved by it: the staff and families of the students at Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School. Both Pilon and Brandes (along with this writer) send their children to the well-regarded private school. Having two parents running against each other had already become an awkward topic on social media.

Pilon’s departure from the race heads off the possibility of any heated political debates on the school’s playgrounds or in the student pickup line.

Here is Pilon’s full statement:

“I want to thank all of my supporters and volunteers, who made this campaign special. This campaign would not be where it is today without all of you, and I will always be grateful for your support.

“It is only after much thoughtful contemplation and family consultation that I must say, with a heavy heart, that I am withdrawing from this race for personal reasons. Out of respect for the privacy of our family, I do not wish to go into great detail about these circumstances.

“However, I can say that a close family member is experiencing some serious and unexpected health problems. These health issues, unfortunately, have made it impossible for me to continue forward and give the campaign the attention that it deserves, while also being able to provide the support my family needs.

“We still have a full slate of strong Democrats up and down the ticket, and across the state, who will bring desperately needed change to Tallahassee.

“Until we change the makeup of the state Legislature, Tallahassee will continue to ignore the needs of working Floridians and continue working for special interests. I am encouraged that my short presence in this race has already brought attention to people, communities, and issues that are vital to change. I will continue to fight with our fellow candidates to ensure that change happens and will work with the Democratic Party to ensure that a strong Democratic candidate takes my place on the ballot.

“I extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who supported this campaign, and share our vision for SD 24, and Florida.”

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Fresh polling: Jeff Brandes, Janet Cruz lead in battleground state Senate seats; Ed Hooper, Amanda Murphy deadlocked.

Poll numbers in two battleground state Senate seats have shifted significantly since last month, while a third race remains essentially deadlocked.

In SD 16, the seat previously held by Jack Latvala, Republican Ed Hooper and Democrat Amanda Murphy remain deadlocked, with Hooper at 45 percent and Murphy at 43 percent. The good news here for the GOP is that this race has shifted ever so slightly to Hooper.

At last check-in, Murphy led by less than a point. Murphy’s May lead and Hooper’s late June one fall well within St. Pete Polls’ margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Like the previous poll, one in eight voters in the northern Pinellas and southwest Pasco district remains undecided. The shift over the past month came from Republican and Democratic voters coalescing around their party’s candidate — Hooper received 72 percent support from Republicans and 15 percent support from Democrats; Murphy received 74 percent support from Democrats and 15 percent support from Republicans.

Unaffiliated and third-party voters, who make up 30 percent of the SD 16 electorate, went plus-7 for Murphy with 14 percent undecided. White voters also favored Hooper, 47-42 percent, while Murphy carried minority voters by a substantial margin, though non-white, non-Hispanic voters only make up about 15 percent of the SD 16 electorate according to the district’s demographic profile.

Hooper holds a 5-point lead among men, while he and Murphy are tied among women. Voters aged 18 to 29 prefer Murphy by 4 points; the 30 to 49 years old bracket went for Hooper by 8 points; those aged 50 to 69 swung back toward Murphy, 45-43 percent; and voters over 70 went plus-6 for Hooper.

In SD 18, incumbent Republican Dana Young now trails Democrat Janet Cruz by a point after entering the candidate qualifying period with a nine-point lead. Of significance, since we last polled, Cruz clarified how her name will appear on the ballot, dropping her second last name, “Rifkin.”

The bounce back was expected for Cruz, who pulled just 62 percent support from Democratic voters in the May poll. The new results show an 8-point bump from her base, while Young saw her support among likely GOP voters dip from 75 percent to 72 percent.

Voters who are not a member of one of the major parties supported Cruz by a hefty 15-point margin. A month ago, those same voters gave Young a slim advantage. The poll also shows Young with a 2-point advantage among men, while Cruz holds a 3-point lead among women.

White voters still preferred Young, though the 46-43 percent split is a massive improvement for Cruz, who trailed by 15 points in the May poll. Cruz holds a near 50-point advantage among black voters, though she trails by 10 points among Hispanic voters, who make up 30 percent of SD 18’s electorate.

Cruz leads among younger voters 49-41 percent; Gen Xers favor Young 46-42 percent; the 50- to 69-year-old bracket went plus-4 for Cruz, 46-42 percent; and those 70 and up slightly favor Young, 43-41 percent.

Over in SD 24, incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes is still ahead of trial lawyer Carrie Pilon46 percent to 41 percent, which is down from the nine-point lead he held at the end of May, but still outside the margin of error.

Much like the poll SD 18, much of the change came from Pilon’s increased support among Democratic voters. She pulls 69 percent support from Democrats in the new poll, compared to 65 percent a month ago. Brandes, like Young, also saw a slight dip in GOP support.

The St. Pete Republican leads by 6 points among white voters, down from 12 points last month. He also saw his leads slip in three age groups, most notably among voters under 30, who prefer him 46-42 compared to the 59-26 margin he enjoyed in the previous poll. Voters aged 50 to 69 flipped from plus-2 Brandes to plus-3 Pilon, while older voters went from plus-22 Brandes to plus-6 Brandes.

His lead among 30- to 49-year-old voters, however, expanded to 52-35.

All three robopolls were conducted over this past weekend and only include responses from those voters who said they intend to vote in the November elections.

The races for Senate Districts 16, 18, and 24 will likely decide the course, if not control, of the Florida Senate as the Democrats have identified the three seats as a package of five to six they are targeting in the 2018 election cycle, the others being Gainesville-based SD 8, Lakeland-based SD 22 and Miami-Dade-based SD 36.

Republicans currently hold a 23-16 advantage in the Florida Senate, with SD 16 currently vacant.

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Jeff Brandes is a client of Extensive Enterprises Media, the holding company that owns FloridaPolitics.com.

Carrie Pilon craters in SD 24 money race

Florida Democrats say Senate District 24 is one of their top targets in the fall, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Democratic candidate Carrie Pilon narrowly outraised incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes in April, but followed that up with an underwhelming performance in May. Her newest report, which covers the first three weeks of June, is more than underwhelming — it’s abysmal.

The St. Petersburg trial lawyer showed just $6,730 in hard money fundraising and tacked on another $3,000 through her political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward. Her burn rate was similarly small, which would only be a good thing if the election was a year or more away. But it’s not.

As it stands, Pilon has raised about $141,000 between her campaign and committee and has about $131,000 banked.

Brandes, meanwhile, kept trucking along with another $68,000 in fundraising. That brings him near the $1.4 million mark for the 2018 cycle to date. He has $728,500 in the bank between his campaign and his political committee, Liberty Florida.

The Pilon campaign pointed to past election results when it made the case for her candidacy, and while it’s true Barack Obama carried the district in both of his presidential elections, it’s hard to see a path to victory for a candidate being outraised ten to one.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas County. The GOP has a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district, which voted plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Both candidates are unopposed in their primaries. The general election is Nov. 6.

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