Poll: Fiona McFarland surges as race for HD 72 goes down to the wire

Fiona McFarland
That's a big leap from last St. Pete Poll, which showed Drake Buckman winning.

A final St. Pete Polls survey in House District 72 shows Republican Fiona McFarland with a small lead on Democrat Drake Buckman.

The poll, commissioned by Florida Politics, shows McFarland the choice of 48% of likely voters, Buckman the pick for 47% and another 5% undecided. Pollsters report a 4.6% margin of error.

Respondents were polled on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, days before the race gets settled. But the results show McFarland surging as the election draws near. A poll taken by the same outfit on Oct. 17 and 18 found Buckman leading 48% to 44%.

The same poll shows Joe Biden maintaining an advantage in the district despite Republicans holding a registration edge. The Democratic presidential nominee leads 52% to President Donald Trump’s 46%. But that too has tightened from a 16-percentage-point lead a few weeks ago.

The survey results indicate McFarland has a path to victory, but also confirms she will have to come from behind to win. Nearly 83% of likely voters already cast their ballot by mail or through early voting. Among those whose vote has been locked in, Buckman leads 53% to 42%. The saving grace for McFarland comes in that 77% of those still planning to vote intend to pick her, while just 15% support Buckman. Another 8% of those yet to vote also have yet to decide.

Expect a rollercoaster as results come in. The poll suggests only 6% of Democrats still have their vote pending, while 29% of Republicans are still waiting to vote. About 16% of the independent vote remains in the field.

That vital independent vote is breaking 51% for Buckman and 43% to McFarland, with 6% on the fence. Meanwhile, Buckman has been able to peel off nearly 16% of Republican voters while McFarland appealed to 14% of Democrats.

In the final stretch, Buckman has more cash left in the bank. Financial reports show McFarland with around $22,443 in cash on hand to the Democrat’s $52,224. But McFarland’s Friends of Sarasota political committee has $3,771 left while Buckman’s The Sunshine Fund is in the hole $11,033.

The poll still finds Gov. Ron DeSantis unpopular within the district. The Republican leader, who won HD 72 by 0.4% over Andrew Gillum in 2018, has a net negative approval rating, with 49% disapproving of the job he’s doing and just 45% saying good things.

This district, despite registered Republicans outnumbering Democrats here by 9,494 voters according to book closing reports, has been a perpetual bellwether.

Republican Alex Miller won here with 58% of the vote in 2016, when Trump won the district 50% to Hillary Clinton’s 46%. But when Miller left office early, Democrat Margaret Good won a Special Election by 7 points in 2018. Good held onto the seat the following November, but by a tighter margin, winning 51% to Republican Ray Pilon’s 49%.

The race was always expected to be a battleground, especially after Good announced she would run for Congress instead of seeking another term. The race has emerged as one of Florida’s tightest House contests this cycle.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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