Polls galore: Republicans lead in state Senate Districts 18 & 23; race still close in SD 8


Republicans in two state Senate districts have big leads over their Democratic opponents, while a third faces a tough race to the finish line.

St. Pete Polls gauged voter support in Senate Districts 8, 18, and 23. The surveys — commissioned by FloridaPolitics.com — showed Majority Leader Dana Young has a six-point lead over Democrat Bob Buesing in Senate District 18; while Rep. Greg Steube has a nine-point lead over Frank Alcock in Senate District 23.

While those races have clear front-runners, the Senate District 8 race remains tight. With one month until the Nov. 8 general election, St. Pete Polls found just two points separate Rep. Keith Perry and Rod Smith.

Senate District 8

Get ready for a close race in Senate District 8.

A St. Pete Polls survey of district voters showed a tight race between Rep. Keith Perry and Rod Smith. The survey found Perry leads Smith, 43 percent to 41 percent. About 16 percent of respondents were undecided.

The automated poll of 771 likely Florida voters was conducted Oct. 10. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

The numbers mark a shift from just one month ago, when a St. Pete Polls survey showed Smith had a five-point lead over Perry. That poll showed Smith at 43 percent, while Perry was at 38 percent. About 19 percent of likely voters said they were undecided.

Records show the Florida Democratic Party has given Smith $183,826 worth of in-kind contributions for staffing and polling through Sept. 30. The state party released its first ad in May to introduce Smith to the voters, and has released at least two other advertisements backing him.

While Smith has the backing of the state party, voters don’t appear to have an opinion of the Alachua Democrat. Voters’ opinions of Smith appear to be split, with about 31 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of him. Another 31 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion, while 39 percent were unsure.

The recent poll comes about a month after Perry was accused of striking a man after he removed one of Perry’s yard signs. The man, Norman Leppla, told police he was hit with an open hand by Perry after being confronted while taking down political signs.

A surveillance video released by the Gainesville Police Department showed the man carrying yard signs — including Perry’s — onto the porch of a house as Perry approached. After the two men talk, Leppla re-enters the frame a few minutes later with signs, leaving them on the porch.

Leppla, arguing with Perry, chest-bumps the candidate. Shortly afterward, Perry shoves Leppla in the face. Leppla eventually withdrew his complaint, and prosecutors announced they would not prosecute Perry.

The incident seems to have had little impact on what voters think of Perry. The St. Pete Polls survey found 30 percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of the Gainesville Republican, compared to nearly 32 percent who said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. About 38 percent of respondents said they were unsure of their opinion.

Senate District 18

Majority Leader Dana Young has a solid lead in her state Senate race, according to the new survey.

St. Pete Polls found Young was at 38 percent, followed by Democrat Bob Buesing at 32 percent. Joe Redner, a no party affiliation candidate, received 16 percent support, followed by Sheldon Upthegrove, another no party affiliation candidate, with 3 percent. About 11 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The automated poll of 1,237 likely Florida voters was conducted on Oct. 11. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

The Senate District 18 race is one of a handful of closely watched races this election cycle, and could be considered a swing district.

In 2010, 44 percent of registered voters were Republicans and 39 percent of registered voters were Democrats. Two years later, records show 39 percent of registered voters were Democrats, while 38 percent were registered Republicans. The share of independent voters in the district increased to about 23 percent in 2014, from about 16 percent in 2012.

Young could be benefiting from Redner’s candidacy. The independent candidate has said he’s angry about the direction the GOP Legislature has taken, and has taken aim at Young on several occasions.

While it’s unlikely he’ll get enough support to become the next state senator, voters who would have been supporting Buesing could be backing Redner instead. The survey found 19 percent of Democrats, 14 percent of independents, and 14 percent of Republicans said they were backing Redner.

Buesing received support from 49 percent of Democrats, 36 percent of independent voters and 13 percent of Republicans. Meanwhile, the survey found Young received the support of 58 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of independent voters, and 19 percent of Democrats.

Senate District 23

After a tough primary, Rep. Greg Steube appears to be headed to the Florida Senate.

St. Pete Polls’ survey of Senate District 23 shows the Sarasota Republican leads Democrat Frank Alcock, 45 percent to 36 percent. Nearly 19 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The automated poll of 1,070 likely voters was conducted on Oct. 11. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Steube beat out four other Republicans — former state Rep. Doug Holder, Rick Levine, former Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, and Rep. Ray Pilon — in a testy Republican primary. Outside groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, poured thousands upon thousands of dollars to oppose him, but Steube came out on top with 31 percent of the vote.

Despite a heated primary and representing part of the newly drawn Senate district since 2010, voters don’t seem to have much of an opinion about Steube.

According to the poll, 54 percent of respondents said they were “unsure” about their opinion of the state lawmaker. About 23 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion; while 23 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.

Alcock also appears to be unknown, with more than 70 percent of respondents saying they were unsure of their opinion of the Sarasota Democrat. The survey found 18 percent had a favorable opinion of him, compared to 11 percent that had an unfavorable view.


Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster


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