As early voting continues in a Jacksonville Special Election, new polling holds good news for local Democrats in the current election and those running next year.
University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab conducted an email poll of the Special Election for an open at-large seat on the City Council and found that the race between Democrat Tracye Polson and Republican Nick Howland is too close to call.
Polson and Howland each had 50% support with partisans sticking with their parties. Just 3% of Republicans polled picked Polson and only 4% of Democrats went with Howland.
One metric to watch: Howland dominated Polson with no party affiliation (NPA) voters polled. The survey showed 64% picked Howland, with 36% preferring his Democratic opponent.
Turnout as of the end of Wednesday is still under 9%, but leaning toward Polson. Democrats have a 4-point edge in overall turnout, but that lead has narrowed as early voting has continued.
The tightness of the UNF poll is consistent with previous surveys of this race. Polson and Howland were the top two finishers in the first election last December, and less than a percentage point separated them then also.
The good news got better in terms of 2023 races, with early polling showing strength for Democrats in next year’s races for Mayor and Sheriff.
Democrat Donna Deegan was the choice in the Mayor’s race of 41% of those surveyed, with majority support among Black, Hispanic and female voters. Her 19% support with NPA voters was good for first in the field.
Republican candidates and pre-candidates, including two dynamic fundraisers so far, lagged behind. Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis registered 20% support and City Council Members LeAnna Cumber and Al Ferraro languished in single digits, with 9% and 7% support, respectively.
Though Deegan is riding high in the polls, she has a little less than $350,000 on hand between her campaign account and her political committee, Donna for Duval. That compares unfavorably to Cumber’s JAX First political committee, which has roughly $1.8 million on hand. And both Deegan and Cumber are chasing Davis, whose Building a Better Economy committee has roughly $3.5 million on hand.
Deegan is outpacing Ferraro, who has roughly $170,000 on hand between his campaign account and his political committee.
Given the crowded field, it is likely no candidate will get a majority in March 2023, necessitating a General Election runoff between the top two finishers.
The same dynamic could play out in the Sheriff’s race, where the leading Democrat also is a leading fundraiser.
Democrat Lakesha Burton has roughly $750,000 on hand between her Make Every Voice Count political committee and campaign account, and she was preferred by 39% of all respondents. The poll found 53% of female voters and 68% of Black voters backed her, as did 71% of Democrats.
Republican T.K. Waters’ 27% support was good for second place, and he likewise has around $750,000 on hand between his A Safer Jacksonville for All political committee and his campaign account. In the survey, 48% of NPA voters surveyed preferred Waters, well ahead of any competition with that cohort.
Other candidates who have been struggling to match the frontrunners in fundraising likewise are struggling in polls. Republican Mat Nemeth was the choice of just 15% of those surveyed. Democrats Tony Cummings and Wayne Clark, meanwhile, had just 4% and 2% support, respectively.