A new poll shows Floridians are split on whether or not Confederate monuments around the state should remain in place.
According to a poll released Tuesday by Florida Atlantic University’s Business and Economic Polling Initiative, 49 percent of Floridians surveyed think Confederate monuments should stay in place. 30 percent said they should be removed, while 21 percent were unsure.
What to do about the monuments and statues, which adorn public spaces both throughout Florida and much of the South, has been an occasional topic of public discourse, but it reached a fever pitch in recent weeks after a clash in Charlottesville, Va. turned violent, when a white nationalist drove a vehicle into a crowd of counter-protestors.
Locally, Lee County has faced its own discussions over what to do with imagery of the county’s namesake, Confederate general Robert E. Lee. A portrait of Lee hangs in the chambers of the county commission, while a bust of the general sits on Monroe Street in Downtown Fort Myers.
At a recent meeting, the commission proposed changing the attire of Lee in the portrait from military to civilian attire, a proposal which has the support of local NAACP leader James Muwakkil.
“Commissioner [Frank] Mann had suggested that we put Mr. Lee in a business suit,” said Muwakkil. “The NAACP joins in with Mr. Mann in that type of recommendation. Let us compromise and stay ahead of what we are seeing across the nation.”
The poll also handicapped the upcoming gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in 2018.
In a hypothetical matchup between incumbent Senator Bill Nelson and current governor Rick Scott, Nelson held a 42-40 lead. Scott, while widely rumored as eyeing the Senate and has set up a political action committee, has not yet declared for the race. But the Naples Republican appeared to draw more support from younger voters, according to the poll.
“Our poll found younger voters 18 to 34 years old are more likely to vote for Scott, while voters 55 and over favor Nelson,” said Monica Escaleras, Ph.D., director of the BEPI. “It will be interesting to see what the candidates do to try to draw support from each of those generations.”
It’s much more up in the air who will replace Scott in Tallahassee, however. 53 percent of Republican voters, and 47 percent of Democrats were undecided on who they liked for governor.
Among Republicans, current commissioner of agriculture Adam Putnam leads the way with 27 percent, while current House Speaker Richard Corcoran had 10 percent, 9 percent for Congressman Ron DeSantis, and just 2 percent for Florida Senator Jack Latvala.
Attorney John Morgan, who has not declared for the race but has seen his profile buoyed around the state after spearheading efforts to pass medical marijuana legalization in Florida in 2016, earned 19 percent among Democrats, while former Congresswoman Gwen Graham got 14 percent. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum had 9 percent, and Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine 8 percent.
“Donald Trump’s success has encouraged nontraditional candidates to consider running for office, and our results suggest that well-known attorney John Morgan may have an opportunity in the Democratic gubernatorial race,” said Kevin Wagner, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of the Initiative. “But, it is very early with many undecided voters.”
Morgan’s possible entrance into the race has created significant intrigue over the past year, and at least one website, called “For the Governor” – a play on the slogan of Morgan’s law firm – has called to draft him into the race.
But the Orlando attorney is in no rush to declare his candidacy, telling the Tampa Bay Times that he can afford to wait well into next year before getting in.
“I’m going to have the advantage to let the race take off, come all the way around, and I don’t have to make a decision until the horses are all coming down the stretch,” he said. “Wouldn’t you love to bet that way? You could make a lot of money.”
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