Naples lawmaker Byron Donalds holds the lead heading into a Republican primary in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. But Naples businessman Casey Askar has surged into a close second.
A St. Pete Polls survey commissioned by Florida Politics shows Donalds with more than 23% support among likely Republican voters and Askar with 22%. The poll finds Naples physician William Figlesthaler and Dane Eagle fallen to around 16%.
But the poll puts all candidates within a statistical tie of one another based on a 4.7% margin of error.
And since early July, this poll consistently showed the same four candidates topping a nine-Republican field. The only other candidate coming in with double-digit support in the poll is Fort Myers’ Randy Henderson at 11%.
As for the rest of the field, disabilities activist Darren Aquino shows up with 3%, former Minnesota lawmaker Dan Severson at 2% and Collier County Deputy Daniel Kowal and Ave Maria law grad Christy McLaughlin each above 1%.
Donalds led this poll, as he did in one released Aug. 4. But since that time, Askar rose from fourth place to second and within 2 percentage points of Donalds.
Moreover, Askar leads in the latest poll among those who already cast their votes, a group constituting around 63% of respondents. There, Askar comes in at over 22%, with Donalds just under 22%, Figlesthaler at 18%, Eagle at 16% and Henderson at 11%.
About 27% of voters who had yet to vote intend to cast ballots for Donalds, compared to less than 20% for Askar and just 14% for Eagle or Figlesthaler. But that makes it critical for Donalds on Tuesday to make sure his voters make it to the polls.
If anything, the poll reaffirms the volatility of standings. In early July, the same pollsters found Askar with a strong 30%-to-26% lead over Donalds, with Figlesthaler at 16% and Eagle then at only 8%.
Pollsters included 439 survey responses, all taken Aug. 16, two days ahead of polls opening on primary day.
Tuesday’s primary election will put to bed a deeply negative and contentious race.
Askar has pumped hundreds of thousands into airwave buys heading into the election, many branding negative headlines and mailers about his military service and education as “lying about my record.”
Outside groups have also invested heavily in the race, boosting — but more often bashing — the four leading candidates. The bulk of those dollars came from Club for Growth Action and AFP Action, both PACs that endorsed Donalds.
If there’s an explanation to Henderson’s improved standing, it may be he has avoided the nastiest stage of negative campaigning in the race.
A look at crosstabs shows Askar narrowly leading among male voters 22% to Donalds’ 21%, Figlesthaler’s 18% and Eagle’s 14%. But more than 26% of women pick Donalds, compared to 21% for Askar, and 16% each for Eagle and Figlesthaler.
Among the high-turnout 70 and older demographic, Askar and Donalds both come in around 20%, actually tied down to a tenth of a percentage point in the poll. About 19% go with Figlesthaler and 16% with Eagle.
Donalds gets nearly 31% of the 50- to 69-year-old vote though, compared to just 21% for Askar, 15% for Figlesthaler and 14% for Eagle.
It’s among younger voters where Askar holds his greatest edge. Those ages 30 to 49 break for Askar over Donalds by 38% to 17%. Eagle and Figlesthaler come in around 8% with this demographic, actually behind Henderson at 13%. The poll includes few votes age 18 to 29, but Eagle wins over more than two-thirds of those votes.
Polls close Aug, 18 at 7 p.m.