Florida poll: High undecideds in GOP, Dem governor primaries

Florida governor candidates, from left: Republicans Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis, Richard Corcoran; Democrats Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Philip Levine, Chris King.

Republican governor candidate Adam Putnam and Democrat Gwen Graham hold narrow leads among primary voters in their respective parties, with 43 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Democrats undecided, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll.

Putnam gets 27 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis 23 percent and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who’s expected to announce his bid in March, gets 7 percent in the GOP poll. Among Democrats, Graham edges former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine by a 20-to-17 percent margin, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum getting 10 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King at 4 percent.

Mason-Dixon polled 500 registered Democrats and 500 registered Republicans Jan. 29-Feb. 1. Each sample has a 4.5 percent margin of error.

Some highlights:

• Younger voters in both parties are the most up for grabs. Among Democrats, 57 percent of voters aged 18 to 49 are undecided. The figure is 55 percent for Republicans younger than 50.

• There’s a significant gender gap in Democratic polling. Graham, trying to become Florida’s first female governor, gets 25 percent of Democratic women voters, with Levine at 13 percent and Gillum at 12 percent. Democratic men favor Levine over Graham by a 23-to-13 percent margin, with Gillum getting 7 percent.

• Gillum, trying to become Florida’s first black governor, holds a narrow lead among black voters: 22 percent, to 17 percent for Graham and 13 percent for Levine.

• Graham and Levine are tied at 21 percent among white Democratic voters.

• Hispanic Democratic voters break 21 percent for Graham, 12 percent for Levine and 11 percent for Gillum.

• Republicans who are 65 and older, who make up 39 percent of GOP voters in the Mason-Dixon sample, are Putnam’s strongest demographic group, favoring him by a 32-to-25 percent margin over DeSantis.


Donald Trump looms large in Florida governor’s race

Two weeks after President Donald Trump tweeted praise for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, DeSantis has entered the race for Florida governor.

President Donald Trump always figured to loom large in this year’s midterm elections across the nation, and Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantisentry into the Florida governor’s race today confirms Trump will be a big factor in the Sunshine State.

DeSantis — praised by Trump in a Dec. 22 tweet from the tarmac of Palm Beach International Airport — invoked the president and part-time Palm Beach resident while announcing his candidacy on Fox News this morning. Democratic governor candidate Gwen Graham, meanwhile, was the first of what will likely be many Democrats to slam DeSantis for his Trump ties.

“Ron DeSantis running as Trump’s hand-picked candidate with the backing of out-of-state billionaires may endear him to the most partisan primary voters, but he is too extreme for Florida,” Graham said.

DeSantis faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and, possibly, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, in the GOP primary. Graham is seeking the Democratic nomination against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Trump’s tweet that DeSantis “would make a GREAT Governor of Florida” instantly boosted the three-term congressman’s profile. DeSantis mentioned the Trump tweet on Fox and Friends.

“As you remember a few weeks ago, the president tweeted support for me as a candidate for governor of Florida,” DeSantis said. “So today, we’re going to be filing the paperwork to begin that effort. As somebody who’s a military officer, Iraq veteran, a proven conservative and then with the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Gov. Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education and drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained just like Washington.”

While eager to associate himself with Trump, DeSantis said he disagrees with a Trump Administration proposal to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling. Scott and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio have joined Democrats in criticizing the idea.

“I agree with Gov. Scott,” on opposing drilling, DeSantis said on Fox and Friends. “In Florida our coastline is so important to our economy, it’s important to property values, it’s important to tourism. And we need to protect our coastline…I’m going to be fighting with Gov. Scott to protect Florida’s coastline. And you know what, I think this is just a draft proposal and I think that the White House will ultimately be with us and I think we’ll be able to work it out so that Florida’s beaches will be protected.”

Web makeover for Richard Corcoran as he weighs run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new website looks like it belongs to a candidate for governor.

As he ponders a 2018 run for governor, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, has given his richardcorcoran.com website a major overhaul.

Corcoran’s site until recently featured a three-paragraph bio and video and text of his 2015 speech when he became speaker. Corcoran rolled out a new site Tuesday night — first flagged by FloridaPolitics.com  — with snazzier photos, an expanded biography and seven “my philosophy” links as well as a bumper sticker-ready slogan of “Less Talk. More Action. Strong Conservative Leadership.”

The website is the handiwork of Washington, D.C.-based Go Big Media, which was paid $33,089 last month by Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC.

Since its launch in June, Watchdog PAC has raised nearly $4.4 million and began October with $3.9 million in cash on hand. Watchdog has hired veteran Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio and paid his firm $162,605. The Corcoran PAC has also paid A-list Republican media firm Jamestown Associates $54,504 so far.

Corcoran has said he’ll wait until the 2018 legislative session concludes in March to decide on whether to enter the governor’s race. The Republican field already includes Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, could enter the race soon.





The Hurricane Irma effect on Florida’s campaign money chase

Top row, from left: Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine. Bottom row, from left: Republicans Richard Corcoran, RonDeSantis, Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam.

For a few days around the Sept. 10 landfall of Hurricane Irma, fundraising for the 2018 Florida governor’s race nearly came to a standstill.

By the end of the month, however, most declared and potential candidates had raised about as much campaign cash in September as they did in August.

Click here to read the details on who raised what in September.

Florida Chamber poll: Scott-Nelson tight; undeclared John Morgan tops Dems for governor

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, left, is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

An expected 2018 Senate showdown between three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is too close to call, according to a poll released today by the business-backed Florida Chamber Political Institute.

John Morgan at a 2014 event supporting medical marijuana. (Gainesville Sun photo)

The Chamber poll also finds 44 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans undecided about their parties’ candidates for governor in 2018.

Among voters with an opinion, trial lawyer and marijuana legalization advocate John Morgan leads the Democratic field for governor even though Morgan hasn’t said whether he’ll run. In the race for the Republican nomination for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big early advantage over his declared and potential rivals.

Scott, who faces term limits as governor next year and has been urged to run for Senate by President Donald Trump, edges Nelson by a 47-to-45 percent margin in the Chamber poll — essentially a tie considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.

The survey of 615 likely voters was conducted Sept. 17-24 — a week after Hurricane Irma — by Cherry Communications using live telephone interviews.

Scott is viewed favorably by 57 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent in the poll. Nelson’s favorable/unfavorable score is 50/22.

Three Democrats have opened 2018 campaigns and raised serious money for governor: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King. But the undeclared Morgan tops the field with 23 percent to 16 percent for Graham and other candidates in single digits.

Morgan is viewed favorably by 26 percent of voters in the poll and unfavorably by 20 percent, with 35 percent saying they’ve never heard of him. Graham has a 19 percent favorable and 7 percent unfavorable rating, with 58 percent saying they haven’t heard of her. Gillum is unknown to 72 percent and King 77 percent.

Among Republicans, Putnam leads the gubernatorial field with 26 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, at 9 percent. DeSantis has said he’ll announce this fall whether he’s running for governor. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who opened a campaign for governor in August, gets 2 percent and another potential candidate, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, gets 1 percent.

Trump-NFL anthem controversy: Some Florida candidates weigh in, some silent

Some Miami Dolphins kneel rather than stand for the national anthem before Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On a day when many NFL players around the U.S. — and in London — sat, knelt or raised a fist during the national anthem, Florida Republican candidates for governor Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala echoed President Donald Trump in saying athletes should stand during The Star Spangled Banner.

None of the three Democrats running for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King — commented on the controversy on Twitter or Facebook on Sunday or early this morning.

Some players have been refusing to stand for the anthem since last year, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling before preseason games and declared: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Trump drew new attention to the protests on Friday when, during a speech in Alabama, he said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!'”

As the anthem protests became the dominant story of Sunday’s NFL games, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam tweeted a photo of the American flag and wrote: “I agree with President Trump that professional athletes should stand for our National Anthem. RT if you agree.”

State Sen. Latvala said he’s been on record since 2016 in condemning the anthem protests.

“A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem. This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed. Thankfully we still have players like Alejandro Villanueva who stood up for our country on the battlefield and stood up for our flag today!” Latvala said on Facebook and Twitter.

Villanueva, a West Point grad who served three tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, is the Pittsburgh Steeler offensive tackle who stood outside the tunnel at Soldier Field in Chicago with his hand on his heart during the national anthem Sunday while the rest of his teammates remained in the locker room.

A potential Republican candidate for governor, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, praised Villanueva on Twitter on Sunday.

“This is what a hero looks like,” Corcoran wrote as he re-tweeted a post about Villanueva.

Another potential candidate for governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, didn’t comment on the issue on social media.




Adam Putnam’s big money lead continues in Florida governor’s race

Top row, from left: Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine. Bottom row, from left: Republicans Richard Corcoran, RonDeSantis, Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam.

Republican Adam Putnam began September with more than a 3-to-1 cash advantage over his nearest GOP rival in the 2018 Florida governor’s race and more than a 5-to-1 money edge over the leading announced Democrat, Gwen Graham.

•Between his main campaign account and his Florida Grown political committee, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam ended August with more than $13 million in cash on hand.

How much money declared and potential candidates for Florida governor had as of Aug. 31.

• State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who formally launched his campaign last month, ended August with just over $4 million in the bank, nearly all of it in his Florida Leadership Committee PAC.

• House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, says he won’t decide until next year whether to enter the race. In the meantime, his Watchdog PAC took in $1.1 million last month and began September with $3.7 million on hand.

• U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, is expected to announce his intentions in the fall. If he runs, a committee called Fund For Florida’s Future is expected to back him and has more than $1.4 million in the bank.

• On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Graham has a combined $2.45 million on hand between her formal campaign and her Our Florida committee.

• Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who has been considering the race, pumped another $66,000 into his All About Florida PAC last month, putting his personal stake above $2.6 million. The committee began September with nearly $4.7 million on hand.

• Winter Park businessman Chris King has nearly $1.7 million on hand between his campaign and his Rise And Lead Florida PAC.

• Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum began September with $604,975 in available cash between his campaign and his Forward Florida committee.

Hastings, Deutch, Frankel join Wasserman Schultz campaign against Confederate statue

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz, D-Weston, has enlisted Florida’s entire Democratic House delegation in calling for speeding up the planned removal of Florida’s statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith from the U.S. Capitol.

Two weeks after U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, called for a special session of the Florida Legislature to speed up the replacement of a statue of a Confederate general, her effort has been joined by the three Democrats in Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation: Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel.

Florida’s other U.S. Capitol statue honors air conditioning impresario John Gorrie

Wasserman Schultz sent a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, asking for the legislature to accelerate the already-in-the-works replacement of the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, which is one of two statues representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol.

(Florida’s other statue in the Capitol is of John Gorrie, considered the father of air conditioning.)

Scott signed a 2016 bill calling for the replacement of the Confederate statue. But legislators haven’t settled on a new Florida figure to honor. A committee has recommended three finalists: Educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune; Everglades preservation icon Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix founder George Jenkins.

Wasserman Schultz says legislators can convene a special session and pick a replacement when they gather in Tallahassee for committee hearings in September. When she initially raised the matter, a Scott spokesman said no special session is warranted and the issue can be brought up when the legislature meets in its regular session in January. Corcoran accused Wasserman Schultz of “grandstanding.”

Wasserman Schultz’s letter has been signed by all 11 Democratic members of Florida’s U.S. House delegation.

Poll: Floridians on Nelson-Scott Senate race, Trump, Confederate statues

Floridians’ views on Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Bill Nelson, President Donald Trump and Confederate statues were measured in a new FAU poll.

An expected 2018 Senate race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott is a virtual tie, according to a new Florida Atlantic University poll, which also finds wide-open Republican and Democratic primary races for governor and mixed views on President Donald Trump‘s “both sides” remarks about Charlottesville.

While Floridians appear unclear about which candidates they prefer for Senate and governor, they have more pronounced views on statues of Confederate figures in public places. Forty-nine percent say the statues should remain. Thirty percent say they should be removed, as three Democratic candidates for governor advocated Monday in West Palm Beach.

FAU’s poll of 800 registered Florida voters, conducted last Thursday through Saturday, shows three-term incumbent Sen. Nelson getting 42 percent and term-limited Gov. Scott getting 40 percent in a hypothetical Senate race. That’s a virtual tie considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.

Scott hasn’t announced his 2018 plans, but the expectation he’ll run for Senate is so great that no other Republicans have entered the race.

In the race to replace Scott as governor, 53 percent of Republican voters say they’re undecided on a nominee a year before the primary. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the leading GOP candidate with 27 percent, while recently declared state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, gets 2 percent. Two potential candidates — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast — get 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

The Democratic gubernatorial race is also very much up for grabs, with a 47 percent plurality saying they are undecided and trial lawyer John Morgan — who hasn’t said whether he’ll run — leading the field with 19 percent. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham gets 14 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum 9 percent, undeclared Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine 8 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King 4 percent.

Part-time Palm Beach resident Trump gets a 37 percent job approval rating in the FAU poll, with 47 percent disapproving. Nationally, the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls shows Trump with a 38.5 percent approval score and 55.6 disapproval rating.

Asked about Trump’s declaration that “both sides” bore blame for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, 44 percent of Floridians disagreed and 42 percent agreed, with 14 percent undecided.




Firefighters from West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton endorse Jack Latvala

Republican governor candidate Jack Latvala talks to reporters in Hialeah after kicking off his campaign.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, today announced three more endorsements from local firefighter unions for his 2018 Republican gubernatorial bid.

The West Palm Beach International Association of Fire Fighters Local 727, Boca Raton IAFF Local 1560 and Boynton Beach IAFF Local 1891 are endorsing Latvala, who earlier scored endorsements from Miami IAFF Local 587 and Orlando Professional Firefighters Local 1365.

Latvala’s main GOP rival, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has been endorsed by the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County, which represents 2,500 first responders in unincorporated areas and some municipalities.

Latvala and Putnam have opened 2018 campaigns for the GOP nomination for governor and could be joined in the Reppublican race by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast.

Three Democrats running for governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King — will appear today at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch in West Palm Beach.