As 2020 begins, Javier Fernandez bid for SD 39 continues to lag

At least one Democrat is souring on the party's chances of flipping the seat.

It’s expected to be one of the highest-profile races in the state in 2020. But Democrats’ efforts in Senate District 39 have yet to inspire much confidence the party can turn the seat blue in November.

Pinecrest Vice Mayor Anna Hochkammer had originally attempted to run for the seat. And she started off strong, pulling in more than $100,000 in her first month as a candidate.

However, Hochkammer’s campaign was cut short a few months later after the Vice Mayor was forced to withdraw due to health issues.

Enter state Rep. Javier Fernandez, who quickly earned the backing of the entire Senate Democratic caucus.

Despite that support from leadership, Fernandez has failed to match Hochkammer’s monthly high of $100,000. A failure to meet that lofty bar wouldn’t be as troublesome if the GOP’s candidate of choice, state Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, hadn’t repeatedly either exceeded or approached that number.

In 2019, Rodriguez pulled in more than $675,000 between her campaign and her political committee, Ethics and Honesty in Government. Fernandez managed just over $155,000.

Now, an internal poll obtained by Florida Politics from a group aligned with Fernandez is showing additional concern for the Democratic candidate.

The good news for Fernandez: that survey shows him trailing Rodriguez by just one point. In the poll, taken toward the end of November, Rodriguez is leading 42% to 41% with 16% of voters still undecided.

But the fact that Fernandez is trailing is concerning given the performance of the top of the ballot in the district. That same survey — a sample of 406 likely voters conducted by GQR — has former Vice President Joe Biden leading Donald Trump among SD 39 voters by a 4-point margin, 48% to 44%. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is polling even better. She leads Trump 50% to 39%.

Despite those candidates showing leads between 4 and 11 points, Fernandez slightly trails.

When reached for comment, Fernandez emphasized that the survey shows him in a statistical tie with Rodriguez and sounded confident regarding his place in the contest.

“Our campaign has tremendous momentum and we are greatly encouraged by the state of the race,” Fernandez said. “This early poll shows just that.”

But after comparing Fernandez’s numbers with the presidential polling, combined with his continued fundraising deficits, at least one Democratic state Senator is worried about the party’s prospects in the state Senate contest.

“The Democratic leadership and Senators so far have been disappointed in Javi’s commitment to fundraising and his poll numbers just aren’t what we thought they would be,” said the member, who asked not to be named.

It’s unclear whether that break in the interpretation of the contest’s status would cause Senate Democrats to look elsewhere now that the campaign has entered the new year.

Fernandez told Florida Politics he’s hired Kristen Oblander of The Oblander Group to take the lead on his fundraising program. And Fernandez says he’s intent on keeping his head down and continuing forward.

“The response across the board to my candidacy has been met with great enthusiasm and the voters along with the donor community are excited about where we are and in the direction we are headed,” Fernandez said.

“This polling highlights that we are on the right side of the issues in Senate District 39, that I am the right candidate to represent this community, and that we are perfectly positioned to win this race.”

Calling a $520,000 deficit in contributions a “perfect position” is a bit of a stretch. But any hopes of flipping the Senate blue in 2020 will die if Republicans manage to win this seat. Without an alternative, Democrats need to hope Fernandez’s optimism is warranted.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].

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    January 12, 2020 at 4:18 pm

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