Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn enjoys a 6-point lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in a new poll of Florida’s 2nd Congressional District.
The poll, commissioned by the Lawson-backing Southern Roots PAC and conducted by David Binder Research, shows 49% support for Dunn and 43% for Lawson in the North Florida district. Additional survey results show Lawson’s support rises to 47% after respondents were told positives and negatives about each candidate, while Dunn’s share remains unchanged.
The district has drawn attention as a target of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who proposed and signed congressional maps in an unprecedented move this year that eliminated Lawson’s original district, drawn in 2015 to empower the Black electorate.
It is also the only Florida congressional race featuring two incumbents — Dunn, a White Panama City Republican, and Lawson, a Black Tallahassee Democrat — after the DeSantis map drew the two together.
“Al Lawson is the most vulnerable Black Congressman in the country and has been the only African American elected to Congress from North Florida since 1863,” the Southern Roots PAC said in a statement. “This poll shows that Lawson and the Democrats have an opportunity to win CD-02 and protect the rights of Black voters in the South.”
Florida courts had drawn the original district to preserve the voting power of historically Black communities across North Florida. But DeSantis argued that drawing districts based on race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
However, both the U.S. Voting Rights Act and the Florida Constitution’s Fair Districts Amendment require that maps allow minority communities to elect members of their choosing in “minority access districts.” Furthermore, the Voting Rights Act prohibits states from diminishing minority representation.
Gadsden County, which falls in CD 2, is Florida’s only majority-Black county.
“A majority of the African American communities in the district are direct descendants of slaves and Governor DeSantis has shown a complete disregard to Civil Rights by using authoritarian leadership to disenfranchise minority voters and tear apart our communities,” the Southern Roots PAC said.
Democrats and left-leaning groups have criticized DeSantis for signing election laws that strengthen election security and increase regulations on ballot drop boxes. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have likened such laws to “Jim Crow 2.0,” calling them efforts to limit minority voting power.
The Southern Roots PAC, which is filed in Philadelphia, is focusing its efforts on electing Lawson and calls Dunn a “far right extremist.”
David Binder Research surveyed 600 likely CD 2 voters from Sept. 14-18. The margin of error was 4 percentage points. On party affiliation, 42% identified as Republicans, 41% identified as Democrats, 3% identified with a minor party and 14% reported no party affiliation.
The poll also found a net 6% job approval rating for DeSantis in the district, with 52% approving and 46% disapproving.
FiveThirtyEight gives David Binder Research a B/C rating and a Democratic lean of around 2 points.
The poll results, first shared with POLITICO, support the expert consensus that Republicans hold the advantage in the new district. DeSantis would have defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by nearly 8 points in 2018, and former President Donald Trump would have defeated Biden by 11 points in 2020.
Polling from June also showed Dunn in the lead, by 43%-40%.
Midterm years are historically unfavorable to the party controlling the White House and Congress. However, Democrats and left-leaning efforts have performed well in polls and Special Elections since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the national right to abortions.
The Southern Roots PAC is placing the “extremist” label on Dunn in part for his support for overturning Roe v. Wade.
CD 2 stretches from eastern Walton County, across the Democratic-leaning regions in Quincy and Tallahassee, to Madison and Taylor counties and part of Lafayette County.