Neal Dunn wins Leon Republicans’ straw poll
Image via Amy Donofrio

In a crowded 2nd Congressional District primary with three candidates from Tallahassee or east of it, it was Panama City’s Neal Dunn who managed to win the day among Capital City Republicans last week.

The urological surgeon won a Leon County Republican Executive Committee straw poll by five points over former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia and 17 points over former Rick Scott administration attorney Mary Thomas. Three percent voted for Ft. White businessman Jeff Moran and a few were undecided or chose “none of the above.”

“Neal Dunn continues to receive the endorsement and support that matters most to our North Florida communities,” said Sarah Bascom, Dunn’s campaign spokeswoman, after the vote.

Dunn is closing in on the status of “establishment favorite” in the CD 2 race to succeed Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, whose district was radically altered by the landmark 2014 redistricting case that has sent half a dozen Florida congressional incumbents scrambling.

Dunn has a quarter of a million dollars more than the next-highest fundraiser in Thomas, and has secured endorsements from big-name legislative Republicans like former Speaker Allan Bense and former Senate President Don Gaetz, among others.

But whether that will captivate rank-and-file GOP voters in a 2016 in the “outsider” cycle spurred by Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders remains to be seen.

Thomas recently won the endorsement of FreedomWorks, a right-wing think tank affiliated with the congressional “Freedom Caucus,” an unofficial group all four CD 2 candidates have expressed fondness for during the campaign.

Still, Dunn maintains substantial advantages when it comes to metrics like fundraising and communication. He has taken to television airwaves  multiple times so far ahead of the summer and fall, when ad rates will rise amid the noise of the coming presidential contest.

The Leon REC vote wasn’t the first straw poll taken thus far in the campaign — Sukhia convincingly won another poll held at the Florida Family Policy Council earlier in May.

Ryan Ray

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at [email protected].


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