Jack Latvala Archives - Florida Politics

Ed Hooper takes slim lead in SD 16 comeback bid

Former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper has taken back the lead from former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the race to fill Pasco and Pinellas county-based Senate District 16.

According to a new poll conducted over the weekend, Hooper is the pick for 47 percent of SD 16 voters with Murphy coming in just behind him with 45 percent support. Only 8 percent of those polled said they were still unsure which of the two candidates they would pick to replace former Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala.

The St. Pete Polls survey comes six weeks after a poll from SEA Polling & Strategic Design showed Murphy on top, 41-39 percent. All public polls of the race released thus far have reflected a tight race between the two former lawmakers, with the early July measure from St. Pete Polls also showing Hooper with a 2-point lead, 45-43 percent.

SD 16 is one of the more Republican-friendly Senate districts being targeted by Florida Democrats in the fall, though Murphy has in the past shown an ability to woo GOP voters. She represented House District 36 from 2013 through 2016, when she lost to now-Rep. Amber Mariano.

That race came down to just a handful of votes despite President Donald Trump winning the Pasco-based House seat in a 20-point landslide.

Murphy is peeling off about a fifth of Republican voters in the new poll. But Hooper has seen a slight bump in support from Democratic voters compared to a few months ago. He was the favored candidate for about 17 percent of registered Democrats in the survey.

By race, Hooper holds a 4-point edge among white voters. The poll included only a few black and Hispanic voters, though it indicates a lead for Murphy among those demographics. Hooper also leads among men, 51-44 percent, while Murphy holds a 46-43 percent lead among women.

By age, Murphy leads 47-44 percent among Millennials and 53-40 percent among 50- to 69-year-olds. Hooper has a 10-point edge among Gen Xers and runs up the score among voters over 70, with 54 percent preferring him compared to a 34 percent share for Murphy.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted Sept. 16 via an automated phone call polling system. It received responses from 1,040 who said they planned to vote in the general election. The top-line result has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Hooper has been in the race since early 2016 and has raked in $490,000 in hard money and another $250,000 through his political committee, Friends of Ed Hooper. Heading into September, he had a combined war chest of $515,700.

Murphy, who entered the race in early May, has raised $73,655 in campaign dollars. Two political committee’s chaired by the former lawmaker — Working Towards Florida’s Future and Taxpayers for Responsible Government — have also collected a combined $130,000 since May. Recent finance reports show she has $101,750 banked between the three accounts.

SD 16 covers northern Pinellas County and southwestern Pasco County, including Clearwater, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor, New Port Richey and Oldsmar. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the district’s electorate, while Democrats make up about a third. Two years ago, President Donald Trump carried the district by 12 points.

Deal on local property tax rates helped stabilize Florida’s budget

A leading Senate budget writer claimed vindication Friday in a lingering dispute with House leaders over whether to allow local school boards to capture all of the value of rising property values when setting local tax rates.

Rob Bradley, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, underscored the point during a presentation on the state’s three-year fiscal outlook by Office of Economic and Demographic Research director Amy Baker.

Baker, the Legislature’s chief economist, expects state revenues to grow by 3.3 percent or so through each of the next three fiscal years. That works out to about $1 billion per year, suggesting a stable budget picture through the near future.

Baker attributed much of that stability to last Session’s legislative compromise on the required local effort, or RLE — the minimum that school districts must raise from property owners to support county schools.

“It would be the RLE decision, mostly — to allow the required local effort to absorb the benefit of new construction,” she said.

For the past four years, the House has insisted on reductions to local property tax rates that leave those taxes level, notwithstanding increases in property values. The Legislature sent state money to help compensate the districts for the revenue losses.

Under the compromise, the House agreed to let local school districts capture the value of new construction for classrooms.

“That one decision really fundamentally changed the nature of short-term and long-term financial outlook for the state budget in a positive direction,” Bradley told reporters following the hearing.

“We need to continue to focus on decisions related to RLE, and we need to very strongly consider going back to the policy of the Legislature from four years ago, whereby the (tax) rate remained the same — there were no tax increases — but there wasn’t a subsidy from the state government to local property taxes,” he said.

Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, took over the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee after Jack Latvala quit the Senate following sexual harassment accusations.

House leaders, by contrast, had argued that if property owners paid more, that would equal a tax increase — even if their tax rates remain the same.

Capturing the full increase in property values would raise an additional $300 million-$323 million dollars per each of the next three fiscal years, Baker said: “Over the three-year period, that would put you somewhere between $900 million and $1 billion.”

Bradley was asked if he had seen any indication that incoming House leadership might soften its approach to the issue.

“That’s why we have Session — to have these discussions,” he said, adding, “It’s not a tax increase. We’ve plowed this ground before, and I look forward to having those discussions.”

Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur, a leading House budget writer who’s term-limited, and who sits on the commission, said the report vindicated his side’s insistence on budget restraint.

Even though he’s leaving, Brodeur has picked up little enthusiasm among House members for significant spending increases on, for example, expanding Medicare eligibility, as Democrats including gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum have advocated.

Such ideas “are simply out the window,” Brodeur said.

Nick DiCeglie

Direct mail round-up: Nick DiCeglie slammed as ‘lifelong Democrat’

There’s a new hit job showing up in Pinellas County mailboxes painting House District 66 candidate Nick DiCeglie as a “lifelong Democrat” who has contributed to “pro-amnesty liberals like Charlie Crist.”

If that’s the case, the Republican Party of Pinellas County has a problem on its hands — DiCeglie is the chair.

But it’s not the case. Far from it.

DiCeglie did give to Charlie Crist, when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. That was long before Crist, a lifelong Republican from Pinellas County, switched his allegiance to the Democratic Party. Also of note: DiCeglie gave to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio later on in that election cycle.

All of his contributions since then have been to Republican candidates and committees: former Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young, former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican Party of Florida — and those are just his federal contributions.

At the state level, he’s donated exclusively to Republican politicians: Attorney General Pam Bondi, state Rep. Kathleen Peters, former state Sen. Jack Latvala, Gov. Rick Scott and future House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Nick DiCeglie is obviously a Republican. But that’s not the only troubling thing about the mailer. It also partially “doxxes” the candidate by listing his personal cell phone number.

That’s low. Blasting that information out to the public with a mailer pushing false and inflammatory information isn’t just irresponsible, it’s a recipe for someone to get harassed and possibly physically assaulted. As anyone who has had their information put out knows, it rarely stops at phone calls.

DiCeglie is running for the seat currently held by term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern. He faces Seminole attorney Berny Jacques in the Republican primary. Heading into the final five days of the election, DiCeglie surpassed Jacques in both total fundraising and cash on hand — he had $46,605 in the bank, much of it loans, while Jacques had less than $500 in his two accounts.

It is unclear whether the mailer attacking DiCeglie was sent by the Jacques campaign as the flipside of the document was not provided to Florida Politics. Still, campaign finance reports show Jacques spent more than $18,000 on direct mail campaigns over the last couple weeks.

Recent polls show DiCeglie with a firm lead heading into the primary election. An Aug. 13 survey of likely Republican primary voters in the coastal Pinellas district showed DiCeglie with a 44-30 percent lead over Jacques. That edge expanded to 51-34 percent among the voters who said they’d already sent in their primary ballot.

The winner of Tuesday’s election will move on to face Democratic nominee Alex Heeren in November.

HD 66 covers part of Clearwater and numerous other communities, including Belleair Bluffs, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Seminole.

The district has a Republican lean — Ahern has held the seat since it was redrawn in 2012, when he won re-election by 6 points. His next two re-election bids ended in double-digit wins, and President Donald Trump had similar success in 2016, when he carried the district 55-41.

The mailer is below. Florida Politics has edited the picture in order to not disclose DiCeglie’s cell phone number.

Anit-Nick DiCeglie mailer

Matt Caldwell’s gun rights ad draws NRA rebuke

An NRA-endorsed candidate for agriculture commissioner is “retooling” an ad after the gun-rights group said he made a “mistake” in assigning a failing grade to a primary opponent.

Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association’s longtime Florida lobbyist, requested that the endorsed candidate, Matt Caldwell, apologize for the ad against Republican primary opponent Denise Grimsley.

Despite Hammer’s request, Caldwell, a state House member from North Fort Myers, issued a statement that adopted a less-conciliatory tone and continued to pound Grimsley’s gun-rights voting record.

Caldwell’s campaign recently sent out a print ad that assigned to Grimsley a “D” grade for 2016 that appeared to be from the NRA. But the gun-rights group, which grades candidates on how they vote on Second Amendment issues, actually gave Grimsley, a state senator from Sebring, a grade of “B” that year, according to Hammer.

The ad and Monday’s statement from Caldwell drew rebukes from Grimsley’s campaign. Hammer repeatedly described the ad copy as a “mistake.”

“It’s clearly a mistake,” Hammer said. “And I would certainly hope that Matt Caldwell, the candidate we have endorsed, would admit that it was a mistake and apologize to her and move on. That’s the professional thing to do.”

Hammer declined to comment further after Caldwell issued a statement that continued to question Grimsley’s record on gun issues.

“In order to avoid confusion, I asked my team to retool the ad this weekend, but we will not back down from the clear contrast between ourselves and our opponents when it comes to defending the 2nd Amendment,” Caldwell said in the statement.

The disputed ad asks voters: “Who can you trust to protect your Second Amendment rights?” It then lists grades that Caldwell and Grimsley purportedly received from the NRA in 2016 and a failing mark that former lawmaker Baxter Troutman, another candidate for agriculture commissioner, received from the organization in 2008.

In responding to Hammer’s statement, Caldwell said: “It is common knowledge that Sen. Grimsley has received less than an A-rating from the NRA multiple times throughout her legislative career.”

“A simple Google search reveals that she partnered with disgraced Sen. Jack Latvala to vote against a pro-gun bill in 2014,” Caldwell said, referring to a former Clearwater lawmaker who resigned after a sexual-harassment investigation. “Additionally, ProjectVoteSmart.org lists Grimsley as having a 64 percent grade from the NRA in 2016.”

Grimsley campaign spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said that while Hammer repeatedly called the recent ad copy a “mistake,” Caldwell’s campaign has “been pushing this false attack for months and finally got busted.”

“Is Matt Caldwell admitting that his campaign knowingly lied in an ad he approved?” Bascom said. “Mudslinging is not a good look, but it usually means someone knows they are losing.”

High grades from the NRA are often coveted by Republican candidates. Under the NRA grading, a “B” signifies a lawmaker who “may have opposed some piece of pro-gun reform or supported some restrictive legislative in the past,” but is otherwise generally pro-gun.

A “D” advises NRA members that the candidate is “anti-gun” and “usually supports restrictive gun control legislation and opposes pro-gun reforms” and “can usually be counted on to vote wrong on key issues.”

Caldwell received an “A” grade in 2016 and an “A plus” for the current year.

An “A plus” grade goes to candidates who have “an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues” and who have offered a “vigorous” defense of the Second Amendment. Grimsley received a “B plus” for the current year.

Grimsley’s marks have been attributed to her vote in 2014 on an amendment to a bill allowing people without concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns during declared emergencies.

Troutman received an “F” in 2008 after voting against a measure known as the “Bring Your Gun to Work” law, which involved mandating that employers allow workers to keep firearms in their locked vehicles at work if the employees are licensed to carry concealed weapons.

The NRA slaps an “F” on candidates it deems a “true enemy of gun owners’ rights.”

Troutman’s grade for the current year is a “C minus.” A “C” grade indicates a mixed record on NRA issues.

The fourth candidate in the race, Mike McCalister, got an “Aq” ranking from the NRA this year. The grade is based on McCalister’s response to the advocacy group’s candidate questionnaire and notes he doesn’t have a voting record on Second Amendment issues.

Money problem: Matt Caldwell calls for Denise Grimsley to return Jack Latvala cash

Clearwater state Sen. Jack Latvala may have been gone from Tallahassee for months now, but his political committee continues to be in play.

And that action is becoming an issue in the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

Per POLITICO Florida, Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee has moved $400,000 into four other political committees run by lobbyist David Ramba. Of that pass-through money, $25,000 of it made its way to Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley — which Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell’s campaign says helped her get “political welfare” (or public financing, as it is less pejoratively known).

Grimsley had returned $72,000 of Latvala lucre after the scandal broke. However, Caldwell is presently concerned with the ramifications of the recently revealed $25,000 drop.

“Denise already recognized it was wrong to take money from Jack Latvala by giving it charity — why has she continued to take his money? Was she hoping she could accept the contributions without anyone noticing? We cannot trust a Commissioner whose hand is always in the cookie jar when they need a personal bailout, or who will take money from anyone willing to write a check,” Caldwell asserted.

“Denise should return the money she received from Jack Latvala immediately. She should not accept his contributions and furthermore, should return the hard-earned money of Florida taxpayers — to the tune of nearly a quarter of a million dollars — and lead as a conservative. Public financing of statewide political campaigns is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Florida’s hardworking families,” Caldwell added.

Grimsley’s campaign is dismissing Caldwell’s accusations as “dirty politics” from someone lagging in the polls.

“Is Caldwell implying earmarking and that Senator Grimsley is somehow engaging in such behavior? That would be very disappointing for him to engage in such nasty politics. We can only assume it is because she is the best candidate in the race and winning the primary, so now he is resorting to attacking her,” said Grimsley campaign spokesperson Sarah Bascom in an email to Florida Politics. “We also find it ironic that he calls on her to return campaign financing that candidates he is actively supporting have also accepted.

“Is he also going to call on all of the candidates that have accepted these funds to return them or is this just another political stunt to revive his campaign? He can’t have it both ways.”

This has been an expensive race, with all three candidates encountering name ID challenges.

Grimsley and Caldwell have each raised more than $2 million, and have over a million each on hand. Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven has invested $3 million of his own money in the race.

Ed Hooper clears $650K raised, Amanda Murphy cracks $100K in SD 16 battle

Former state Rep. Ed Hooper continued piling on to his fundraising lead in the race for Senate District 16, adding $37,156 to his war chest last week.

Hooper, a Clearwater Republican, is running against former state Rep. Amanda Murphy, a New Port Richey Democrat, for the Pinellas and Pasco-based state Senate seat that was held by Sen. Jack Latvala before his resignation late last year.

Between July 21 and July 27, Hooper raised $21,156.00 in hard money and tacked on another $16,000 via his political committee, Friends of Ed Hooper. That haul included a $15,000 check from Working Together For Florida PAC, the main fundraising vehicle of Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a candidate for the 2022-2024 Senate presidency.

Hooper’s accounts only shelled out $5,575 during the weeklong reporting period, including $2,086 for email and social media marketing and a host of charges for canvassing work. All told, Hooper has raised nearly $660,000 between the two accounts since entering the race in early 2016. He had $492,647 banked at the end of the reporting period.

Murphy, meanwhile, showed $4,615 in contributions for her campaign account last week while her two political committees — Working Towards Florida’s Future and Taxpayers for Responsible Government — haven’t shown signs of life since shortly after she entered the race in mid-May.

Her new report included a check from personal injury law firm Disparti Law Group for $1,000, the maximum allowable contribution for state legislative races, as well as 22 smaller contributions, most of them from individuals. The report also showed $20,000 worth of “in-kind” support from the Florida Democratic Party to cover research and campaign consulting costs.

After spending just $225 for the week, Murphy had $28,293 left in her campaign account. Including committee cash, Murphy has raised $103,625 between her three accounts and had a combined $86,763 on hand on July 27.

Murphy is the lone Democratic candidate running for SD 16, while Hooper faces some nominal opposition in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Hooper’s opponent, Palm Harbor restaurateur Leo Karruli, has raised $5,446 and kicked in another $30,025 in candidate loans. His new report shows him with a negative balance in his campaign account.

SD 16 has a Republican edge — it voted plus-12 for Donald Trump in 2016. However, polling has consistently shown the seat is winnable for a Democrat. A June survey from St. Pete Polls shows Hooper and Murphy in a competitive race, with Hooper holding a 45-43 advantage. That edge falls within the poll’s margin error.

Jack Latvala won’t be charged, prosecutor says

Tallahassee’s top prosecutor says he won’t pursue criminal charges against former state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Campbell

State Attorney Jack Campbell‘s decision, announced Thursday, had been eagerly awaited by the state’s political class – and by Latvala himself.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, resigned in December after two damning reports on his alleged serial sexual harassment. He first served in the Senate 1994-2002, then returned in 2010. Latvala was term-limited this year.

The Senate had sent on its findings to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which did its own investigation that was passed to Campbell’s office for review for a possible public corruption case.

The most damaging allegation was that Latvala, who had risen to influence as chair of the Appropriations Committee, “on multiple occasions” offered to trade his vote for sex with a female lobbyist.

But Campbell this week decided he couldn’t bring a case that he could prove by the stringent criminal legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” and said he’d “take no further action.”

The bombshell ‘sex for votes’ finding came toward the end of Special Master Ronald V. Swanson‘s report into a complaint filed by Rachel Perrin Rogers, a top legislative aide for future Senate President Wilton Simpson, in which she accused Latvala of sexually harassing her and assaulting her.

And a second investigation into sexual harassment claims against Latvala, prompted by a POLITICO Florida story, turned up a witness who bolstered the allegation that the senator would offer to trade sex for favorable votes on legislation.

Those revelations and other complaints not only led Latvala to resign, but also to abandon his exploration of a run for governor. But the FDLE’s report said its investigation “did not develop an indication that Latvala exerted his influence as a Florida senator to assist (the lobbyist) in any issues she presented … in exchange for a continuing sexual relationship.”

In comments to The Associated Press’ Gary Fineout on Thursday, Latvala praised FDLE and lambasted his handling by Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart and Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, both fellow Republicans.

Negron released his own statement later Thursday:

Campbell’s office also released the FDLE’s investigative report, below:

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Capitol correspondent Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

Florida Retail Federation endorses Ed Hooper for SD 16

The Florida Retail Federation said Tuesday they were backing former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper’s bid for Senate District 16.

“As a member of the House, Representative Hooper supported legislation that enhanced Florida’s job creation efforts, including our retail industry,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “As a Senator, we know he’ll continue this effort and work towards ways to make Florida the best state for business.”

The retail trade group’s endorsement also cited Hooper’s decades of service as a firefighter in Clearwater, for which he was named the Professional Firefighter of the Year by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet in 1999. Also highlighted was his seat on the board of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, his role in founding the Florida Firefighter Caucus and his service awards from Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Hooper, who served in Florida House from 2006 through 2014, is up against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the fall.

Through June 22, he held a lead in the money race with $527,000 raised and $419,400 banked between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Ed Hooper. Murphy, who filed for the seat on May 9, has raised $81,090 and has $76,595 in the bank.

A recent poll shows Hooper and Murphy in a competitive race, with Hooper holding a 45-43 advantage. That edge falls within the poll’s margin error.

SD 16 covers northern Pinellas and southwestern Pasco counties. The seat has a Republican edge — it voted plus-12 for Trump in 2016 and was held by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala until he resigned the seat in early January.

Jack Latvala prosecution decision will likely come next week

The capital area’s top prosecutor on Monday said a decision whether to press charges in the Jack Latvala investigation won’t come till next week at the earliest.

A spokesperson for State Attorney Jack Campbell said Friday a decision could have come as early as this week.

Campbell called Florida Politics Monday morning to say he was now “getting deeper” into the 90-page report.

“I am off the Fourth and taking off Thursday and Friday, so I can promise I will not offer an opinion before then,” he said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has delivered its findings to Campbell, the chief elected prosecutor for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Tallahassee.

Latvala, a former state senator from Clearwater, was under investigation for months following complaints of sexual misconduct that led to his resignation from office in December.

Campbell previously said he would review the FDLE’s findings and decide whether to press criminal charges against Latvala, who first served in the Senate 1994-2002, then returned in 2010. He would have been term-limited this year.

Latvala has said that his “political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me.” He also admitted, however, that he “ … perhaps (had not) kept up with political correctness in my comments as well as I should have.”

A special master’s report released by the Senate found Latvala “on multiple occasions” offered to trade his vote for sex with a female lobbyist. Special Master Ronald V. Swanson recommended the sexual harassment allegations against the veteran lawmaker be investigated by criminal prosecutors.

Another investigation into sexual harassment claims against Latvala, prompted by a POLITICO Florida story, turned up a witness who bolsters an allegation that the senator would offer to trade sex for favorable votes on legislation.

Tallahassee attorney Steve Andrews, who represents Latvala, declined comment Monday.

Campbell, first elected in 2016 after serving as an assistant prosecutor for years, is a Democrat. Latvala is a Republican.

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 3 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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