The gubernatorial primary races for both major parties are hotly contested according to a new Mason-Dixon poll out Tuesday.
The poll questioned a group 500 registered Republicans and 500 registered Democrats who were likely to vote in the upcoming primaries. The results showed that both parties have two clear front runners, but that they are only separated by a few percentage points. They also show that a large number of likely primary voters are still undecided, giving all the candidates space to swing the vote in a pair of races that are likely to get very expensive as campaigns look to win over those who are just starting to pay attention to the contest.
On the Democrat side, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, daughter of former Governor and Senator Bob Graham, leads the field with 20 percent support. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine comes in just behind at 17 percent and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum comes in at 10 percent. Businessman Chris King lags behind the pack with four percent, but a whopping 49 percent of likely voters are still undecided.
Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam leads the pack for Republicans with 27 percent. Congressman Ron DeSantis, who received President Trump’s endorsement, is in second with 24 percent, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran sits at seven percent.
The poll’s authors said that at this point the race is largely based on name recognition, with none of the candidates holding significant unfavorable ratings with voters in their own parties. While name recognition is the main factor driving results in a field where so many voters are undecided, statewide notoriety is not bringing as big an advantage as might be suspected.
Adam Putnam has a seven percent advantage over second place DeSantis in name recognition, but only a four-point lead in the pole, despite having been having held statewide office for many years. Gwen Graham has an eight-point advantage in name recognition over Levine, but again is seeing only a three-point lead in support, even though her father formerly held the office.
The state may be heading into unexplored territory, where party apparatus and famous names do not hold the sway they once did on primary voters.
“Traditional expectations in primary elections based on insider baseball no longer apply in a growing and ever-changing state.” said the poll’s authors. “As both parties have polarized, establishment backing is no longer a great advantage.”
In the polling region which includes Southwest Florida, Republican voters are leaning toward Putnam with 35 percent of the vote to DeSantis with 17 percent. The area also has the fewest undecided voters, with 39 percent.
By contrast, its nearly the opposite with Democratic voters, 60 percent in the region still undecided. Levine holds a slight 17-16 lead over Graham.
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