Most Voters Still Undecided on Cabinet Races
As a host of lawmakers running for statewide office shift their focus from legislative business in Tallahassee to campaigning, a new poll released Wednesday shows they have their work cut out for them.
A new Ron Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered Florida voters showed most people are undecided in the races for attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner. The races for all three will not feature incumbents as Attorney General Bill McCollum and CFO Alex Sink are running for governor and Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson is term-limited.
In the race to replace McCollum, state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach holds a slim lead over Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, in the race for the Democratic nomination. But an overwhelming 73 percent of voters said they were undecided.
The same is true on the Republican side of the AG race, where Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp is out front with 13 percent, while Hillsborough County prosecutor Pam Bondi drew 10 percent and former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson has five percent. But again, the vast majority of respondents - 72 percent - were undecided.
There’s a little more clarity in the races for Agriculture Commissioner and CFO, but not much. In the Ag Commissioner race, former Tallahassee mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox is essentially tied with U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam at 31 percent to 30 percent, with 39 percent undecided.
For CFO, Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, leads former state Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, 33 percent to 26 percent with 41 percent undecided.
The numbers show that the races are not yet on the radar of most voters, Sachs Communications CEO Ron Sachs said in a statement released with the poll.
“These figures show that even in this competitive election year, most voters still have much to learn about the candidates in Florida’s Cabinet races,” Sachs said. “Right now any outcome is possible, and it will be interesting to watch where these large numbers of undecided voters come down during the five-plus months between now and Nov. 2.”
At least one candidate, Sen. Gelber, said such Cabinet races as his Democratic primary contest were being overwhelmed by the attention riveted on Florida's combative U.S. Senate race, which he said was even overwhelming much of the focus usually given the governor's race. Gelber said he didn't expect voters to begin noticing the August primaries until they are practically upon them.
"Right now, I feel like a public television program competing in the same time slot with the latest network reality show," Gelber said.
The Sachs/Communication poll also found that voters were in favor of Amendment 4, known to supporters as “Hometown Democracy,” which would require that local governments hold referenda before amendments to comprehensive land use plans or new plans can be approved. The poll put support for the amendment at 61 percent and opposition at 18 percent.
The poll also found that the proposed “Right-size Class Size” amendment, which would allow school districts more flexibility on class size caps by switching to school-wide averages, far below the 60 percent it would need to pass. The measure only drew 44 percent support.
A non-binding referendum on whether Floridians would like to be exempt from the recently approved federal health care law also had 44 percent, with 32 percent disapproval and 24 percent undecided, though that proposal wouldn’t have any force of law.