Scott Gaining Momentum in Florida;
Illinois Filing Closes

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 6, 2017 — In what should be a premier Senate race next year, the Florida political contest that likely will develop between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not yet drawn a great deal of national media coverage, but that will certainly change over time.

A new St. Leo University poll (Nov. 19-24; 500 Florida residents) finds Gov. Scott opening up a sizable lead over the three-term Democratic incumbent, 42-32 percent. The results definitely detect a swing toward the term-limited Republican governor; but previous polling conducted since Sept. 10 has forseen a much closer skirmish.

Two polls from September, St. Leo University (Sept. 10-15; 500 Florida residents) and the Florida Chamber of Commerce (Sept. 17-24; 615 likely Florida voters), both projected Gov. Scott to be holding a two-point lead over Sen. Nelson, 35-33 percent and 47-45 percent, respectively. The University of North Florida (Oct. 11-17; 834 Florida voters), however, gave the incumbent a scant 38-37 percent edge in mid-October, while Mason-Dixon Polling & Research (Oct. 17-19; 625 Florida voters) cast the two prospective candidates as tied at 44 percent each.

Gov. Scott is not yet an official Senate candidate, but little doubt remains that he will become one. The governor indicates he is in no hurry to announce and will not do so until well into next year. In the meantime, however, a political action committee under his supporters’ control has been active in sponsoring a multi-million dollar media blitz to rally popular support for the governor’s state agenda.

The new St. Leo University poll only surveys 500 “residents” and does so from what they say is a “sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups.” It remains to be seen if their new methodological survey approach will yield the accuracy ratings to make St. Leo a consistent reliable Florida pollster.


The Illinois candidate filing deadline expired Monday, and 77 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents filed as challengers or open seat contenders in the state’s 18 congressional races. There is no Senate race in the Land of Lincoln next year, and only one House incumbent, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago), is retiring.

All of the current federal office holders seeking another term are early favorites for re-election, but eight of the 17 returning House members do face primary opposition. Though most of the challengers don’t appear as early threats at first glance, the one that likely will attract some primary news coverage is liberal activist Marie Newman, a marketing consultant, who is taking on seven-term incumbent Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/ Chicago suburbs) in the state’s 3rd Congressional District. Rep. Lipinski is one of the more moderate Democratic members in the party conference, so this contest will assume ideological overtones.

In the open 4th District, though Rep. Gutierrez waited until very late in the filing cycle to announce he wasn’t running in an attempt to pave the way for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D), the ploy didn’t prevent six other Democratic candidates from running, including Chicago Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Joe Moreno, and Raymond Lopez. The 4th District is 70 percent Hispanic and will be decided in the March 20 Democratic plurality primary.

It will be interesting to see if any of the challenger favorites from both parties stumble in the early primary. Some of the key seats to watch on March 20 include the 6th District where incumbent Republican Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) sees seven Democrats lining up to battle for their party nomination, the 12th CD where recruited challenger Brendan Kelly, the St. Clair County State’s Attorney, must now defeat two Democratic opponents before winning the right to challenge Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro/ Carbondale), and the 17th, where wealthy businessman Mark Kleine (R) could become a surprisingly tough opponent for incumbent Rep. Cherie Bustos (D-Moline).

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