Polls took a turn in the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Race, with Robert Blackmon jumping to the second spot, ahead of fellow City Council member Darden Rice. Ken Welch continues to lead the pack.
But with ballots already hitting mailboxes, 21% of the city’s electorate is still undecided, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls commissioned by Florida Politics.
In the Primary, Welch leads with just over 23% support, with Blackmon trailing slightly at just under 22%. That’s a significant jump for Blackmon, who, in the previous poll taken June 21, collected just 12% support.
While Blackmon gained 10 percentage points since the last poll, Rice grew her support by just five points as the share of undecided voters shrunk from 34% to 21%.
Her drop overall among the field of top contenders could be a sign voters are abandoning her after backlash from a pair of campaign mailers sent to voters attacking Welch, with claims he had support from Republicans and using that support to tie Welch to former President Donald Trump.
Commenters, including incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, called the claims ridiculous and defended Welch’s progressive record and highlighting his ability to work across the aisle to get things done for his constituents as a Pinellas County Commissioner.
The poll also suggests Blackmon emerged from potentially damaging headlines a week ago that he had attempted to evict residents from low-income housing at a property he bought in late April.
The previous poll had Rice in a virtual tie with Blackmon and former City Council member Wengay Newton. Newton was the only candidate in the field to lose significant ground overall poll-to-poll, dropping from 13% support to just 8% in the poll released Friday.
The poll is overall good news again for Welch, who, in addition to leading candidates in the Primary, giving him a better-than-good shot at making the runoff election, leads in head-to-head matchups against either Blackmon or Rice.
Against Blackmon, Welch leads 32% to 24%, with a staggering 44% of voters still undecided. Against Rice, he leads 36% to 25% with 39% undecided.
Blackmon, meanwhile, trails both Welch and Rice in a hypothetical General Election, trailing Rice 23% to 32%, with 45% undecided.
Among the full Primary field, no other candidate broke 10% support.
There are some interesting demographics to watch.
Welch overwhelmingly leads among Democrats with 31% to Rice’s 22%. But he also performs well among Republicans with 14% support, double that of restaurateur Pete Boland, an actual Republican. Still, Blackmon, who is also a Republican, leads that demographic with 41% support. It’s important to note that St. Pete is blue. Democrats outnumber Republicans with 89,057 voters to the GOP’s 49,992.
In more bad news for Rice, Welch carries a significant lead among women, leading Rice with 23% support to her 19%. Blackmon is also at 19% support among women. Meanwhile, Welch and Blackmon are statistically tied at 25% support among men, to Rice’s 14% support.
Rice does perform better among White voters, at 21% support to Welch’s 16%, but trails Blackmon, who collected 27% support in the latest poll. Further, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Welch is heavily carrying the Black vote with 46% support. Rice came in with just 4% support among that Demographic, with Blackmon claiming 7%. Newton, meanwhile, is siphoning a significant portion of Black voters at 20% support.
While there are still plenty of undecided voters left to capture, particularly considering the Primary Election is just a month away, the entirety of poll results show trouble for Rice. Once considered the candidate to beat, she now finds herself in a position of clamoring to get into the top-two.
It also bears out early hypotheses that the race, before Blackmon or Boland, the only Republicans running, entered the race, had room for a moderate conservative to claim a lane in the top-two.
Voters should watch now how Rice’s campaign responds to the latest poll and whether they’ll walk back recent mailers that appear to have damaged her standing in the race as the Aug. 24 Primary draws near and voters continue to cast their ballots ahead of Election Day.