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Poll: Janet Long, Charlie Justice narrowly lead Republican challengers in Pinellas Commission races

Long is up three points, Justice four.

Incumbents Janet Long and Charlie Justice are leading their respective races for reelection to the Pinellas County Commission, according to a new survey from St. Pete Polls.

Long faces a potentially close race in District 1 against former Rep. Larry Ahern. Long, a Democrat, leads with 46% of the vote compared to Ahern, a Republican, with 43%. Her lead is outside the poll’s margin of error, 2.3%, but 11% of respondents are still undecided.

In District 3, Justice, a Democrat, leads Republican challenger Tammy Vasquez by four points, 46% to 42%. In that race, 12% of those surveyed said they were still undecided.

Not surprisingly, the poll falls mostly along party lines. Among Democrats polled, 76% support Long with only 15% supporting Ahern. But she claims more of the Republican vote than Ahern claims from Democrats. 17% of Republicans support Long.

The similar is true for Justice’s race where 16% of Republicans support Vasquez while 19% of Republicans support Justice.

The poll was almost evenly split among Republicans and Democrats with 690 and 696 responses, respectively.

Both incumbent Democrats led among the 424 independent voters polled. Long leads with 45% of the vote among that group to 38% for Ahern. Justice leads with 47% to 37%.

The Republican candidates lead in just one demographic, voters over 70. Among older voters, Ahern leads with 47% of the vote to Long’s 42% and Vasquez leads Justice with 46% of the vote compared to his 43%.

Neither incumbent nor challenger faced a primary challenge in Tuesday’s election.

Long has a huge money advantage in her race. She’s so far raised nearly $120,000 and has about $94,000 still on hand. Ahern has raised just over $39,000 with $29,000 left to burn.

Justice raised nearly $63,000 and has about $52,000 left in the bank while Vasquez has raised just over $37,000 and has less than $17,000 to spend.

Justice’s race pits an incumbent against a challenger in a race that could serve as a referendum on policies to limit the spread of COVID-19. Vasquez owns the local Bark Life pet supply and grooming service chain. She challenged Justice after votes to uphold Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide order closing grooming services by declaring them non-essential services.

Vasquez was one of many such business owners who rallied against commissioners for not loosening those orders. While the Governor’s order was ambiguous in some ways, it did make clear that while local orders could be more restrictive, they could not be less restrictive.

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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