Republican Amanda Makki, a candidate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, came out on top in a straw poll conducted at Conservative Grounds, a coffee shop in Largo that caters mainly to Donald Trump supporters.
A former health care adviser in the U.S. House and Senate who served in the Pentagon after 9/11, Makki received 198 votes in the poll, conducted at the coffee shop from Nov. 12-Dec. 12. That was good for 68% among respondents, topping opponent Anna Paulina Luna, who garnered just 85 votes in the poll, or 29%.
The results are interesting because Conservative Grounds is widely considered the center of Trump country in Pinellas County. Trump, as he did in 2020, endorsed Luna.
Luna’s 2020 campaign largely centered around Trump policies and support. Makki, meanwhile, was seen as a more moderate conservative. But since then, even though Trump still backs Luna, Makki’s campaign is touting more conservative bona fides, including her work as an attorney in Wisconsin during Trump’s recount.
“This victory is especially notable because it took place in a venue which is heavily patronized by supporters of Donald Trump,” Makki said. “I am honored that they overwhelmingly support me for FL-13.”
Conservative Grounds also polled for a new GOP entrant to the race, nonprofit founder Audrey Henson, who drew just seven votes; repeat candidate Christine Quinn, who also aligns with Trump, received just one vote.
Luna won the GOP Primary for CD 13 last year with 36% of the vote to Makki’s 29%. A third candidate, George Buck, finished third with 26% of the vote.
But Makki is gaining traction this cycle, collecting endorsements from 12 Pinellas County mayors, including Indian Shores Mayor Patrick Soranno, Belleair Beach Mayor Joseph Manzo, Belleair Bluffs Mayor Chris Arbutine, Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, Belleair Mayor Mike Wilkinson, Largo Mayor Woody Brown, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks, North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, Redington Beach Mayor David Will, and Belleair Shore Mayor Bob Schmidt.
Buck also offered Makki his nod, as well as Congressman C.W. Bill Young’s widow, Beverly Young. She also has endorsements from The Republican Main Street Partnership and Maggie’s List, a national organization that works to elect conservative women to Congress.
Makki is a frequent commentator on conservative media, including Fox News, Fox Business, Newsmax and others.
The Republican candidates are running to flip CD 13 red after incumbent U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist flipped it blue for the first time in more than 40 years in 2016. Crist, who is running for Governor, is not seeking re-election, leaving a prime opening for the GOP to reclaim the seat as they seek to take back a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Republican nominee will face the winner of the Democratic Primary, which includes state Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner-Goolsby and former President Barack Obama national security adviser Eric Lynn.