April 23, 2015 — A new but familiar name has surfaced in the open Florida Senate candidate conversation. Beginning the process of deciding whether to enter another campaign is former congressman and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R).
Out of office since losing the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary to current Gov. Rick Scott, McCollum was assumed to be retired from elective politics after spending 20 years in the House, four more as attorney general, and losing two US Senate campaigns and a governor’s race.
A new poll, however, is clearly one of the elements making him think about embarking upon yet another political campaign. The new Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey (April 14-16; 400 Florida Republican primary voters; 400 Florida Democratic primary voters) finds McCollum holding a significant lead over the rest of the prospective Republican primary field.
The results project McCollum with 20 percent support compared to only eight percent for his next closest competitor, Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13). The other tested potential candidates, representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16), Tom Rooney (R-FL-17), Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, former interim Sen. George LeMieux, and state Sen. Don Gaetz, register seven, five, four, four three and one percent, respectively. Shortly after this poll was conducted, Rep. Rooney announced that he will not run for Senate, choosing instead to seek re-election to his south-central Florida House seat.
At least two of the other listed contenders, representatives Jolly and Buchanan, are both noncommittal about running statewide. Observers and analysts generally believe neither will enter the race. If so, then McCollum would be left with only one opponent, Rep. DeSantis, who appears capable of attracting strong financial and grassroots support in areas beyond his Daytona geographical base.
A McCollum re-emergence may or may not happen, but with his positive ID high and the field shaping up in what appears to be a favorable fashion, McCollum certainly has something to think about.
The M-D poll also surveyed the proposed Democratic primary, and finds two negative pieces of news for Orlando Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), who has repeatedly said he could well enter the Senate race later in the year.
The ballot test gives Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) a 23-14 percent lead over Grayson — a nine-point lead — but what should be even more disconcerting to the latter is a larger number of people are familiar with him. Forty-six percent of the sampled Democratic primary voters say they recognize Rep. Grayson’s name as compared with 37 percent who at least say they’ve heard of Murphy. Trailing by a significant number, even though more respondents know the individual in question, is not an enviable political position.
Clearly, the Florida Senate race will be one of the most important elections in the 2016 cycle, and possibly the most talked about. Control of the Senate majority could conceivably come down to this contest, so the current pre-candidate declaration period takes on greater significance than it might during most election cycles.