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Straw poll: Tampa Bay Chamber favors Democrats

The results show Democrats favored even in races with strong incumbents.

The Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce overwhelmingly backed Democrats even in races with popular Republican incumbents, according to results from the group’s annual Hob Nob Wednesday night.

While there were some exceptions, and the sample size was just over 200, the results showed several upsets. It showed Democrat Daniel Endonino topping incumbent House District 36 Republican Rep. Amber Mariano 52% to 48%. It also showed Democratic challenger Tammy Garcia over House District 37 Rep. Ardian Zika  58% to 42%. In House District 38, Democrat Brian Staver received 54% over incumbent Republican Randy Maggard with 46%.

Other potential upsets include Rep. Mike Beltran in House District 57 slightly behind his Democratic challenger Scott Hottenstein 51% to 49%.

Other races show close calls. Republican Danny Burgess collected 53% of the straw poll vote in the Special Election for Senate District 20 over Democrat Kathy Lewis, a lead much more narrow than political observers expect in that race.

Rep. James Grant had an even narrower lead in House District 64 over Democratic challenger Jessica Harrington with just a one vote difference between the two.

Chamber members were also polled on high profile races.

Charlie Crist, who faces a bevy of potential Republican challengers in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, claimed 58% of the vote. Amanda Makki was the top GOP candidate with 24% of the vote, results that mirror more scientific polling in that race.

In Florida’s 15th Congressional District, the straw poll showed bad news for incumbent Republican Ross Spano. He polled evenly with his GOP challenger, Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin with 49 votes each. But Democrat Adam Hattersley led the entire pack with 32%. Hattersley’s main competition in the Democratic primary, Alan Cohn, claimed just 12% of the straw poll vote with long shot candidate Jesse Philippe in last at 7%.

The race for Hattersley’s current House District 59 shows Chamber members favoring the Democrat in the race, Andrew Learned, with 54% of the vote. Danny Kushmer leads Michael Owen 26% to 20% in the GOP primary.

In the open race for House District 70 to replace incumbent Wengay Newton, Michele Rayner and Michelle Grimsley are tied for the top spot, followed by Keisha Bell and Mark Oliver in third and fourth place, respectively. All of the candidates in that race are Democrats.

The biggest shock in local races in the straw poll comes in the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 race that pits two incumbents against one another. Democrat Pat Kemp, who currently holds the District 6 seat, led District 1 Republican incumbent Sandy Murman with just two votes.

In other Hillsborough Commission races, Republican Maura Cruz Lanz surprisingly led the District 3 race to replace retiring Commissioner Les Miller, a Democrat. The district is reliably Democratic. Meanwhile, Sky White led Democrats, followed by Gwen Myers, Thomas Scott, Frank Reddick and Rick Fernandez.

Former Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen is favored over Jen McDonald in District 1 to replace Murman. Scott Levinson is the top GOP candidate ahead of Tony Morejon.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, a Republican, overwhelming led that race with 58% of the straw poll vote. Democrat Gary Pruitt was seconded with 22%. Chronister’s GOP opponent Charles Boswell claimed just 13% of the vote with Democrat Ron McMullen with 7%.

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner leads School Board member Cindy Stuart 61% to 39% in the race to replace Pat Frank as Clerk of the Court.

In Pinellas, incumbent District 1 County Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat, leads her Republican challenger, Tom Lee, 60% to 40%.

Incumbent Democrat Charlie Justice has the same lead in District 3 over his Republican challenger Tammy Vasquez.

In the open race for District 7 to replace outgoing Commissioner Ken Welch, Rene Flowers led with 38% of the vote, followed by Newton with 34%. No party affiliated candidate Maria Scruggs, the only non-Democrat in the race, came in third with 17% followed by Frank Peterman with 10%.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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