There are two distinct takeaways from the latest polls of St. Pete’s City Council races.
First, in each of the three races, there is a definite frontrunner who commands a lead of at least ten points over their opponent.
Second, in two of the three races, ‘unsure’ leads both candidates.
It would seem then that most voters are still undecided about the City Council candidates on the ballot November 7. Well, except in District 4, where incumbent Darden Rice holds an outsized lead over political newcomer Jerick Johnston.
According to this St. Pete Polls survey, Rice is at 47 percent, while Johnston is at 20 percent. Even though she’s in no danger of losing, it would probably look better for Rice — an active, engaged member of Council — were she polling above 50 percent. However, a third of voters still say they are unsure about whom to support. Perhaps it’s time for Rice to spend more of that money she’s raised for her campaign.
On the campaign trail, Rice has been vocal on one of the key issues of the race — the rising costs of the rebuilt St. Petersburg Pier.
“I am on record as being a strong supporter of the pier,” Rice said at a candidate forum last week.
Rice stressed that the project is staying on budget ($46 million to date) and that the $20 million for the pier’s approach is part of the waterfront district’s master plan. Pinellas County gave the OK for another $10 million in tax increment financing (TIF) funds, for developing the Pier approach.
Now is the time for any changes to the approach, she said.
The tightest of the City Council races is in District 6, where incumbent Karl Nurse is term-limited from running again. As it stands, Gina Driscoll leads Justin Bean, 30 to 20 percent, although 50 percent of voters remain undecided.
The Driscoll vs. Bean race has taken a decidedly negative turn as of late, with Bean accusing Driscoll of dragging up youthful indiscretions from his past in an attempt to discredit him with voters.
Driscoll, who serves as president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, also supports the Pier project, as well as using TIF funds for enhancements to the Pier approach area.
At the forum, Bean decried the partisanship of the race, saying he is being attacked for being a Republican. Bean admitted attending Donald Trump’s inauguration, but pointed out that notable Democrats, such as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, were also in the audience.
Bean has been aggressive in distancing himself from the president, noting he disagrees with the administration’s policies toward the LGBTQ community. Bean also denounced the increasing political discord in the country.
“I don’t want to see that happen to our city,” he told the audience.
After the event, Bean told the Tampa Bay Times he did not vote for Trump.
Meanwhile, the District 2 showdown between Realtor Brandi Gabbard and banker Barclay Harless has yet to tighten, despite the latter’s fundraising lead and receiving of several high-profile endorsements.
Gabbard is at 35 percent, while Harless is at 17 percent, which actually represents a widening of Gabbard’s lead since the race entered the general election phase.
At the forum, Gabbard and Harless attempted to differentiate themselves.
Harless, endorsed by Jim Kennedy — the term-limited Council member he hopes to replace — focused on infrastructure, small businesses and the city’s financial responsibility.
Gabbard, a Realtor by trade, talked about her values as a mother, vowing to fight for families and the average citizen.
This is the first public poll of the race conducted after the city, like the rest of Florida, was impacted by Hurricane Irma. Campaigning by most candidates had all but been suspended during the week before and after the devastating storm hit the state.
The poll has a sample size of 1,012 voters, with a 3.1 percent margin of error.
St. Pete Polls’ Matt Florell notes in the methodology that the results of this poll were weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of those who voted in the primary.