More Florida Surprises

Dec. 18, 2015 — St. Pete Polls, not known as Florida’s most reliable pollster but a firm that produces a large volume of research, released a new survey yesterday showing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) bolting past favorite son Marco Rubio in the Sunshine State. The pollsters selected 2,694 previous Republican primary voters during the December 14-15 period through an automated response system.

The results find Donald Trump leading with 36 percent, followed by the Texas senator at 22 percent, and Rubio posting 17 percent, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush only attracts nine percent support. Dr. Ben Carson dropped to six percent. This is the first poll that finds Cruz eclipsing both of the Florida home state politicians, but Trump has been leading everyone here for awhile.

According to this data, Trump polls 40 percent or greater in two regions, Panama City and Gainesville. Rubio does his best in Miami, where he moves into second place and trails the leader 25-31 percent.

Florida hosts the largest Winner-Take-All primary (99 delegates), and will vote on March 15.

Interesting Florida political information, however, is not limited to the presidential campaign. After the state’s highest courts finalized rather drastic alterations to the congressional map, members and candidates can begin to make their 2016 moves.

Rep. Corinne Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) 5th District was fundamentally changed. Previously, the seat began in population anchor Jacksonville, moved south to Gainesville, then jutted southeast to annex the city of Sanford, before turning south again to include a large portion of west Orlando.

The new 5th continues to anchor in Jacksonville, but now moves due west to include Tallahassee and the surrounding region. Though Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) says he won’t run for Congress, former state Senate Minority Leader and two-time congressional candidate Al Lawson (D) is moving toward entering the race regardless of whether Brown or Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) decides to run as the incumbent.

The 5th District is Brown’s, but now she is making noises about, and apparently is moving toward, running in the Orlando-based 10th District. Though she represents much of the new 10th’s Orlando portion, Rep. Brown isn’t nearly as well known in the southern portion of her current seat as in the Jacksonville area. With Rep. Graham unlikely to enter the District 5 race -– she may be more likely to run for the Senate –- eyebrows would rise if Rep. Brown ultimately decides to run in Orlando. But, it may happen.

Brown’s presence in District 10 would create an interesting situation because two Orlando politicians are already announced candidates. Former police chief and congressional candidate Val Demings’ campaign is well underway. State Sen. Geraldine Thompson is also actively campaigning, meaning Rep. Brown would not necessarily be the favorite in the Democratic primary even though she would ostensibly be the incumbent.

It’s possible for her to take advantage of a split between her two major opponents and win with only a plurality – now that Florida has no run-off system — but such an outcome is far from assured. Candidate filing isn’t until May 6 for the Aug. 30 primary, so much time remains for a final decision.

In South Florida, former congressional and lieutenant governor candidate, Annette Taddeo, may soon have company in her challenge against freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) in the newly drawn, and more Democratic, 26th District. Former Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Miami), who Curbelo unseated in 2014 after the former served just one term, says he is not ruling out a 2016 campaign. So is wealthy attorney Andrew Korge, who Democratic leaders in the past coaxed unsuccessfully to run for Congress.

The developing confusion within the Democratic primary should help the new Republican congressman, but the South Florida re-draw makes his bid to stay in office considerably more difficult.

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