The good news for incumbent mayor Bill Foster is that, barring a last-minute debacle to his campaign, he will advance to the general election in November. The bad news is its likely Foster will face the candidate he does not particularly want to see in a run-off, former state Representative Rick Kriseman.
According to the final pre-election survey conducted by St. Pete Polls and commissioned by this blog, Foster tracks at 33%, Kriseman comes in at 32%, while Kathleen Ford, who once led in several polls, is at 22%. Anthony Cates received 3% and Paul Congemi is at 1%. Just nine percent of likely voters remain undecided.
In a poll taken July 11, Ford led both Foster and Kriseman by six and thirteen points, respectively. Since then, Ford has stumbled along the campaign trail, while being attacked by outside interest groups which have flooded voters’ mailboxes with negative brochures critical of Ford’s political record.
Also in this time, both Foster and Kriseman have aired tens of thousands of dollars in television commercials and other paid media.
While Foster should be pleased he is in the lead, privately he has told his Republican political allies he would prefer to face Ford in a run-off rather than Kriseman. The scenario of a Foster vs. Ford run-off no longer looks likely.
The survey measured the support of both early and likely voters. Early voters and likely voters were polled separately in this survey, and the subtotals for each sample are shown here in the summary. An early voter is someone who has returned their mail-in ballot as confirmed by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections as of August 19. A likely voter is someone who has not returned a ballot, but has confirmed that they do intend to vote in the primary election.
Breaking down these numbers, we see that Foster is performing very well among early voters. He receives 38% of their support, followed by Kriseman at 33%, and Ford at 24%.
The demographics of the early voters differ greatly from the demographics of the general registered voter population, as you can see in this chart.
For example, the mail-in ballot participation rate so far is much higher for people over 50 years old. Voters over 50 make up 48% of the registered voter population, but over 80% of the total number of voters that have turned in their mail-in ballots.
Kriseman can probably count on a late surge in actual support, as he leads with likely voters who have not yet cast an early ballot. He receives 30% of this cohort’s support, followed by Foster at 28% and Ford at 21%.