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Here’s the first post-primary poll of the race for Florida governor

Andrew Gillum is breaking ahead of Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race, fueled by the early preference of Florida’s independent voters, according to the first publicly-released poll of the general election campaign season.

A new poll produced by Public Policy Polling gives Gillum, the progressive Tallahassee mayor who rocked the Democratic Party on Tuesday, 48 percent, and DeSantis, the conservative Republican nominee running with President Donald Trump, 43 percent, in the opening days of the Nov. 6 election campaign.

A remarkably low  percentage of voters, just 9 percent, told PPP pollsters that they were unsure, an early indication of how clear the differences already are, and likely will continue to be ,between the two major gubernatorial candidates.

The poll, taken Wednesday and Thursday, shows Gillum starting with a commanding lead among independent voters. Party faithful are lining up pretty equally behind their nominees, and consequently Gillum’s early advantage appears built entirely from independent voters chosing him.

PPP surveyed 743 Florida voters, of which 41 percent were Republicans, 41 percent were Democrats and 18 percent were independent.

The poll was commissioned by EDGE Communications, the politial consulting firm of Christian Ulvert, the former senior consultant for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, who lost to Gillum Tuesday.

“In the first general election poll since Tuesday’s primary, we see how Florida is very much a swing state. Mayor Gillum starts ahead of Ron DeSantis by 5 points,”  Ulvert stated in a release announcing the poll.

The poll finds Gillum starting out with a fairly warm reception from those surveyed, and DeSantis, not so much.

In favorability ratings, 45 percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of Gillum, and 27 percent an unfavorable opinion. DeSantis starts the fall campaign with a 41 percent favable rating, but a 47 percent unfavorable rating.

While party voters generally were lining up solidly behind their nominees, DeSantis’s favorability issue extends deeply into independent voters, according to the survey. Just 26 percent found him favorable, and 55 percent found him unfavorable.

Gillum, meanwhile, starts out with a 51 percent favorable rating among independents and only a 14 percent unfavorable rating. Gillum also starts with a large percentage of Republican voters, 37 percent, who say they have no opinion of him yet.

The result of that independent voters favorability gap: 59 percent would vote today for Gillum and just 25 percent for DeSantis, with 16 percent undecided.

“The most interesting number is among Independent voters where Gillum leads DeSantis by 34. … Gillum starts with an impressive edge among Independent voters who are key to winning Florida,” Ulvert stated.

There also is a sharp differences of opinion between men and women, and divided by races.

“In the governor’s race, there is massive gender gap with Gillum leading among women by 21 and DeSantis leading among men by 13,” Ulvert noted.

Gillum has 84 percent of the vote of black voters and 61 percent of Hisapanic voters, while DeSantis hs 54 percent of the white voters.

Progressive grassroots group backing four Democrats in congressional races

The progressive  Democratic grassroots group Progressive Turnout Project announced Thursday it will be backing four Florida Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Lauren Baer, Mary Barzee Flores, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, in their 2018 campaigns for Congress.

Progressive Turnout Project, a Chicago-based political committee which has raised $14 million so far for this election cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics, characterizes itself as a grassroots-funded organization focusing on “voter registration, early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and restoring the Voting Rights Act.”

Murphy is a freshman Democrat from Winter Park seeking re-election in Central Florida’s Florida’s 7th Congressional District, challenged by Republican nominee state Rep. Mike Miller. Baer is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast in the Treasure Coast’s Florida’s 18th Congressional District. Barzee Flores is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in South Florida’s Florida’s 25th Congressional District. Mucarsel-Powell is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in South Florida’s Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

All four are in tight or even uphill battles for districts being strongly contested by both Democrats and Republicans.

“We know that each of these candidates will fight for Floridians every day because that’s what they’ve been doing for years in their roles as leaders in their professional fields,” Progressive Turnout Project Executive Director Alex Morgan stated in a news release. “If we’re going to pass progressive legislation and restore critical components of our democracy like the Voting Rights Act, then we need to elect these four women on November 6.”

American Bridge launches first anti-Ron DeSantis ad of the fall

Calling Ron DeSantis a “yes man” for President Donald Trump, the Democratic super PAC American Bridge is launching the first attack ad of the Florida fall governor’s race, with an internet video mocking DeSantis’s praise for the president.

The 54-second video, “DeSantis: Trump’s Yes Man,” signals that while Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum may be vowing to not make Trump much of an issue this fall, outside Democratic groups will be more than happy to do so on Gillum’s behalf.

The video shows clips of DeSantis praising Trump, each followed by clips of Trump saying or doing something that mocks DeSantis’s statement. The issues run from Trump’s frequent golf outings to his relationship with Russia President Vladimir Putin.

American Bridge, closely associated with the Democratic Party and heavily funded by New York billionaire George Soros, contends in a news release that the ad is part of a campaign aimed at painting DeSantis as someone focused on appeasing Trump, “not helping Florida families.”

It begins running Wednesday on social media in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami and American Bridge said it is targeted to swing voters.

“Ron DeSantis has been a spineless yes-man for Donald Trump in Washington, and he’d continue to be one as Governor,” American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson stated in the news release. “Ron DeSantis voted for Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy, supported Trump’s plan to take away health care from millions of Floridians, and seems more interested in defending Trump from a Washington television studio than improving the lives of Florida families. This November, Florida voters will elect a Governor who will finally put Florida first, not a Trump yes-man like Ron DeSantis.”

Early vote totals exceed prior primaries for GOP and Dems

More than 1.86 million Floridians have cast their votes for Tuesday’s primary election, an early turnout total exceeding that of the 2016 primary election and 2014 midterm.

Republicans hold the early edge over Democrats heading into the closed-party election.

The tally so far: 855,847 Republicans have cast their ballots compared to 810,629 Democrats as of Monday morning, according to the Division of Elections.

But Democrats have exceeded their 2014 and 2016 numbers, driving up the total number of ballots already cast.

Nearly 77,000 more Democrats voted early in person or returned mail ballots by Monday morning than the 2016 early primary turnout of 733,631. Republicans trail their 2016 early numbers by roughly 25,000.

As Democrats approached 2016 primary thresholds on Saturday, party spokesperson Caroline Rowland called the turnout “unheard of in a midterm election.”

More Democrats voted early last week, with 318,570 going to the polls by Monday, compared to 298,281 GOP voters.

Republicans returned more mail-in ballots, 557,566, than Democrats, 492,059.

Nearly 200,000 third-party or nonparty affiliated voters cast their ballots through the same period.

Meanwhile, 1,384,187 vote-by-mail ballots have yet to be returned. Florida has 13 million registered voters.

Nikki Fried internal poll shows General Election lead on Denise Grimsley, Baxter Troutman

Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried released internal poll numbers Monday showing her with a general election edge over potential Republican opponents Baxter Troutman and Denise Grimsley.

A FrederickPolls survey shows Fried leading Grimsley 42 percent to 40 percent, with 17 percent still undecided. She holds a wider lead over Troutman, 43 percent to 39 percent with 17 percent undecided.

“Nikki Fried is poised to become the first Democratic—and first female—Ag. Commissioner in the history of the office,” pollster Keith Frederick said.

He wrote in a memo that Fried’s lead over the GOP candidates mirrors a 4-percent edge Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham holds over Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis in their polling.

The polling suggests voters for the moment are picking candidates based on “partisan cues,” Frederick writes, and all candidates hold low name recognition right now.

Fried holds 21 percent name recognition, compared to Troutman’s 28 percent and Grimsley’s 21 percent.

Notably, the poll of 500 likely general election voters was conducted Aug. 16-20, almost entirely before Fried made national headlines over a dispute with Wells Fargo regarding contributions from the medical marijuana industry.

While Fried’s campaign polled a head-to-race between the Democrat and Grimsley, pollsters did an “informed ballot question” poll with Fried and Troutman. That means those surveyed first heard a positive campaign biography on both candidates.

After bios were read, Fried expanded her lead to 49 percent to 43 percent, with the Democrat nearly winning a majority of the vote.

The Troutman bio called him a “51-year-old common-sense conservative Republican, citrus grower, cattleman and successful job creator businessman.” The Fried write-up described her as a “40-year-old Democratic candidate and University of Florida law school graduate who has worked as a successful and forceful advocate for public schools, foster children, and legalized medical marijuana.”

“The informed ballot question reinforces the fact that Nikki’s platform of expanded medical marijuana access, emphasis on consumer services and environmental protection and commitment to reforming Adam Putnam’s failed concealed weapons permitting department is incredibly compelling to likely general election voters,” Frederick said.

Notably, numbers matching Fried against Republicans Matt Caldwell or Mike McCalister were not released.

Campaign officials say they polled Caldwell for name identification, finding about 20 percent of voters had an opinion on Caldwell, but they did not do a “horse race” poll.

The campaign did not poll McCalister at all, who has trailed opponents with fundraising.

Fried must first win the Democratic primary on Tuesday when the Republican nominee will also be decided. She has raised almost $214,000 in cash contributions, compared to Jeffrey Duane Porter’s $56,000 and Roy David Walker’s $28,000.

Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene, Chris King in Jacksonville following shooting

The shooting at the gamers’ tournament Sunday at Jacksonville Landing is being followed by four Democratic gubernatorial candidates — Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Jeff Greene, and Chris King — heading to Jacksonville, in part to offer direct responses.

Graham, the former U.S. Representative from Tallahassee, and King, the businessman from Winter Park, added additional events to their schedule Monday to specifically address gun violence and the shooting that left two dead and 11 injured. Greene, the businessman from Palm Beach, released a new schedule of events late Sunday that includes a Jacksonville stop. Monday morning, Levine’s campaign announced a stop at Jacksonville University.

Graham, the front-runner in many polls for Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, announced she’ll be appearing for a “community conversation” at Uptown Kitchen, 1303 Main St., at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

She also has a previously scheduled Jacksonville event at the Mary Singleton Senior Center at 11 a.m. Monday.

Levine, the former Miami Beach Mayor who also is a front-runner in many other polls, announced a 10:45 a.m. stop at the JU Davis College of Business to meet with supporters, volunteers, and organizers.

King, running fifth and essentially out of prospects of winning but saying he is determined to continue pushing his messages, announced he’ll hold a news conference with North Florida gun violence activists and faith leaders outside Jacksonville City Hall at noon Monday.

Greene released a schedule of several newly announced public appearances around the state Monday and Tuesday, including an ice cream social at the Oceanway Community Center in Jacksonville at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

They and the other Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, as well as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, Jacksonville-area leaders, and others all released statements Sunday.

Here’s Gravis Marketing’s final poll of primaries for Florida governor

In a poll following a pretty consistent pattern through the past week, Gravis Marketing is finding that Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham appear headed for a Governor’s race showdown after Tuesday’s primaries.

DeSantis and Graham have topped several polls in the week heading into the last two days of voting, and Gravis is among them.

The Gravis Marketing poll, taken last Tuesday through Saturday, give DeSantis 39 percent, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam 27 percent, and Bob White and Bruce Nathan splitting another 10, with 23 percent still uncertain.

That poll was of 579 registered Republicans, and Gravis was citing a margin of error of 4.1 percent for Republican results.

In the same survey, Gravis also finds Graham with 26 percent of Democratic voter support; and the next three Democrats, Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum bunched, with 19, 18 and 16 percent respectively. Winter Park businessman Chris King trails the pack with 5 percent.

The only major difference in the most recent polls has been the order of Greene, Levine, and Gillum, and their relative strengths compared with each other.

The Gravis poll included 531 registered Democrats, with Gravis claiming a margin of error of 4.3 percent on Democrat results.

Gravis found a couple of other primary races bunched within the margins of error.

Former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody has an insignificant lead over state Rep. Frank White for the Republican Attorney General primary nomination. Moody drew 35 percent and White 32 percent, with 33 percent of those surveyed saying they were uncertain.

Former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, and state Sen. Denise Grimsley are even tighter in the Republican Florida Agriculture Commissioner primary. Troutman drew 19 percent, Caldwell 18, and Grimsley 17. Mike McAlister is not far behind with 13 percent.

Former Puerto Rico Gov. Sila María Calderón Serra to join Philip Levine for Orlando tour

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is planning a whirlwind tour of Central Florida’s Puerto Rican communities with the isaland’s former Gov. Sila María Calderón Serra this weekend.

She endorsed Levine Friday in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election, his campaign announced.

That seal of approval adds to the endorsements Levine already has received from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto and Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez.

Calderón served as the eighth Governor of Puerto Rico from 2001 to 2005. Calderón also served as mayor of San Juan, and as Puerto Rico’s secretary of state.

On Saturday she will be joining Levine for three stops in Orlando and Kissimmee on Saturday evening, and one in Kissimmee Sunday morning.

“As a former governor myself, I was upset with the Trump administration’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. In a moment of crisis, Mayor Levine demonstrated true leadership, putting together relief efforts immediately and working to support the people of San Juan, and all of Puerto Rico,” Calderón stated in a news release issued by the Levine campaign. “Floridians deserve a compassionate leader like Mayor Levine, with a clear track record of action and a reputation for standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Puerto Ricans have an incredible opportunity to decide this governor’s election, It is important that we stand with Philip in the way he stood with us after Hurricane Maria.”

Levine is courting Central Florida’s robust Puerto Rican community heading toward Tuesday’s primary showdown with Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Jeff Greene, and Chris King for the Democratic nomination to run for governor.

On Saturday, Levine and Calderón plan to start with a rally at 11331 Cypress Leaf Dr. at 4:15 p.m. They plan to join a Boricua vota caravana, a political parade, at the El Ponceño Restaurant in Kissimmee by 5:30, and then appear at an early voting center at the Kissimmee Civic Center by 6:30 p.m. On Sunday they will visit the Melao Bakery at 11:30 a.m.

“I’m honored to earn the support of Governor Calderón, a strong public servant who has stood up for what’s right, and has advocated for working people both while in office and after her tenure. As Governor, our state will stand with our Puerto Rican neighbors, strengthen our economic and cultural ties, and ensure that our state is accepting to those who came here after losing everything.”

EMILY’s List candidates: Here come women voters

The “pink wave” is coming, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham vowed Friday, as the national Democratic women’s group EMILY’s List introduced her and six endorsed congressional candidates before Tuesday’s primary elections.

The seven Democratic women candidates took varying degrees of explicitly expressing gender politics during a telephone press conference sponsored by EMILY’s List Friday. However, most of them sought to stress intuitive connections between Democratic positions on such things as abortion, health care, gun laws, and the environment, with concerns held by women of all parties.

Graham predicted a larger than traditional women voter turnout both for the primary and for the Nov. 6 election.

“I don’t just see a blue wave coming off our shores. I see a pink wave. And it is coming,” declared Graham, who faces four men in Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“I really feel that message and frankly the women candidates are pulling in voters that will help us win,” said Nancy Soderberg, in the Democratic primary to run for Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

“I think on Tuesday and in November we are going to prove that when women run, women win,” said U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who’s seeking re-election and faces a primary challenge Tuesday night.

“I’m so excited for the endless possibilities of what we can get done if all of us women in Florida can come together in Congress and achieve so much after November,” said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who’s in a primary to run for Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

EMILY’s list has raised more than $500 million to support pro-choice Democratic women candidates, backing them with direct contributions, in-kind support, and soliciting for them. In addition to Graham, Soderberg, Murphy, and Mucarsel-Powell, the candidates on Friday’s call included Kristen Carlson, running in Florida’s 15th Congressional District; Mary Barzee Flores, who’s running in Florida’s 25th Congressional District; and Donna Shalala, who’s running in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Graham went first and set the tone, predicting a big women voters turnout.

“In a traditional year women are over 60 percent of a Democratic primary; I expect it to be even higher this year… and that’s what we’re seeing in the returns from early voting and absentee voting,” Graham said.

“Not only are we going to win on Tuesday, but I just know this: we’re going to win over independent and Republican women in the general, who’ve had enough,” Graham continued. “I hear it every day. They’ve had enough of the attacks on our public schools, and the attempts to privatize our public schools. they want to protect Florida’s environment, and protect our clean water, and they don’t want to see our health care rights restricted.”

Chris King calls for ‘universal condemnation’ of Joel Greenberg remarks

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King called Thursday for his election rivals to join him in denouncing Islamaphobia and Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg for promoting it in social media.

King, the Winter Park businessman running, in most polls, fifth among five Democratic candidates heading toward Tuesday’s primary election, has turned his attention toward Greenberg this week while pushing his campaign theme of racial and ethnic equality.

Greenberg’s comments, King declared Thursday, “deserve our universal condemnation.”

Greenberg entered the sights of King’s themed campaign stretch-run message Saturday when he posted a comment on Facebook that many took as anti-Muslim, sarcastically contending that Muslims had contributed nothing to civilized societies. Greenberg then engaged in a Twitter storm Monday night defending it, while threatening and insulting others.

Greenberg, a Republican, has declined to comment about the matter to Florida Politics.

On Tuesday King and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum denounced Greenberg. On Wednesday King joined a protest rally outside Greenberg’s Lake Mary office.

The other Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene had not released any statements on Greenberg’s comments or Islamaphobia since the the matter broke.

Until now. Greene quickly joined King’s call Thursday.

“As we end one of the holiest weeks for Muslims across Florida, this moment demands more than just conventional politics – an apology isn’t enough. The Seminole County Tax Collector needs to resign and today I’m calling on my fellow #FLGov candidates to join my call,” King tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“I agree with @ChrisKingFL, and I’m joining him in calling for Joel Greenberg to resign,” Greene tweeted back a few minutes after King’s tweet.

King, who vowed Wednesday to complete his gubernatorial primary campaign by campaigning on racial justice issues, declared in a news release: “This moment demands more than just conventional politics from the political establishment, and I’m calling on my fellow candidates for governor to condemn these hateful comments and demand the Seminole County Tax Collector resign his office.”

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