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New poll: Hillsborough voters support candidates who want to keep Confederate monument

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A majority of Hillsborough County voters would side with commissioners who voted to keep a controversial Confederate monument in front of a county courthouse annex, according to a new poll.

The St. Pete Polls robocall survey of more than 1,400 Hillsborough residents shows 58 percent of voters would support a county commissioner who voted to keep the statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the Hillsborough County courthouse Pierce Street annex, where it has stood for more than a century.

Only 28 percent would oppose a commissioner voting to remove the statue. Another 21 percent said they were unsure on the issue.

The Board of County Commissioners voted 4-2 last month to move the statue, called “Memoria In Aeterna,” to a Brandon cemetery. It was a reversal from the previous month, when the board voted 4-3 to keep the statue to remain in front of the courthouse.

The polling Hillsborough County voters took place Aug. 2. It asked: “In next year’s elections, would you generally support or oppose a Commissioner who voted to keep the Confederate Veterans War Memorial where it is in Tampa and establish a Veterans War Memorial protection act?”

The original four commissioners who voted to keep the monument in place in June — Republicans Stacy White, Sandy Murman, Ken Hagan and Victor Crist — are all on the ballot in 2018.

Murman was the swing vote who changed when the board revisited the issue in July.

Out of town for that meeting, Crist did not cast a vote. Although indicating in advance that he would reverse his vote, Crist is now backing off that statement, telling reporters last week that he wanted the statue moved to a location he had worked with county officials in Lutz, not Brandon.

Three original commissioners who voted to remove the monument: Les Miller, Pat Kemp and Al Higginbotham, are not on the ballot. Higginbotham would have been but announced months ago he would not be running for re-election.

The poll’s results coincides with a private survey taken by members of Save Southern Heritage, an activist group that called on commissioners to keep the monument in place. The poll from Gravis Marketing showed that 77 percent of Hillsborough residents opposed removing the statue. It also showed that 41 percent of black voters surveyed in Hillsborough County supported keeping the monument.

That is not the case with the St. Pete Polls survey, which shows that 51 percent of black voters say they would not support a candidate who voted to keep the monument in place, with 23 percent supporting such a candidate.

Democrats in the county were split: 40 percent would not support a candidate who wanted to keep the monument in place, while 38 percent would support such a candidate; 22 percent said they were unsure.

Among Republicans, the vote wasn’t close: 69 percent would vote for a candidate who voted to keep the monument in place, while only 17 percent would oppose, with 13 percent unsure.

Some Hillsborough residents are so upset with Murman’s reversal, they are working on a plan to recall her, though whether they will follow through remains in question.

The survey polled 1,476 people with a +/- 2.6 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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