According to a new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls and commissioned by Florida Politics, Republican challenger Lenny Curry holds a four-point lead (49 percent-45 percent) over Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, the incumbent Democrat.
With Election Day less than two weeks away, just 6 percent of voters remain undecided.
The party splits are vivid, with both candidates getting strong support from their respective bases. Brown leads among Democrats 76.5 percent-16.3 percent, with 7.3 percent undecided. Curry, according to the poll, has an 83.4 percent-12 percent lead against Brown with Republicans. Among Independents, meanwhile, it is essentially a dead heat; Brown leads by 0.7 percent, 46.4 percent-45.7 percent, with the balance undecided.
The racial splits are interesting also. Brown maintains his heavy lead with African Americans, 87.5 percent-5.8 percent, with 6.8 percent undecided, while Curry is expanding his lead with white voters, 69.5 percent-24.5 percent, with 6 percent undecided. In terms of gender, Curry has a 7.9 percent lead with men, and is just 0.3 percent behind Brown with women, suggesting that he has closed what previously looked like a gender gap between the two candidates.
In terms of age breakdown, Curry seems to be making inroads with voters between the ages of 30 and 49. drawing within a percentage point at 45.9 percent to Brown’s 46.6 percent. The break in previous St. Pete’s Polls was at the age of 50; this breakdown reveals that Curry’s messaging is starting to resonate with younger voters, even as Brown still leads handily, by a margin of 54.4 percent-40.1 percent, with voters 18-29 years of age.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s race between Ken Jefferson and Mike Williams continues to tighten, with Jefferson clinging to a lead, 46.4 percent-45.5 percent, that is now less than a percentage point.
The Party ID splits in this race are remarkably symmetrical. Jefferson draws 72.7 percent of Democratic support; Williams garners 73 percent of GOP support. Each candidate draws exactly 43.5 percent of Independent voters, of which 13 percent are undecided.
The gender breakdown is not unlike that in the mayoral race a couple of weeks back. Williams is up 3.6 percent points with men, and down 5.9 percent with women.
The racial breakdown is interesting, and it also mirrors the Curry/Brown breakdown from a few weeks back. Jefferson has the expected huge lead with black voters, 84.6 percent-7.4 percent. Williams, meanwhile, leads Jefferson with white voters, but by a less resounding margin, at 62.6 percent-29.2 percent. If Jefferson can keep Williams below 70 percent with white voters, he has a path to victory. However, the trend is going the Republican’s way.
The age breakdown, likewise, is like earlier stage Curry/Brown. Williams’ strength is with voters 50+. He has a nine-point lead with voters over the age of 70, and a slender 0.5 percent lead with those between 50-69. Jefferson leads with the 30-49 cohort by 6 points, and the 18-29 age group by over 17 points. Williams’s ability to make gains with the 30-49-year-old voters could be a deciding factor in this election.
Regarding the question of whether voters would vote in person or have already voted in the election, the results were that roughly 70 percent of voters would vote in person, and that roughly 30 percent have already voted. This number holds, with very minor variation, among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, and among men and women alike.
The deviance is within the age groups. The older the voter, the more likely he is to have voted already. 40.2 percent of voters over the age of 70 have already voted, according to the poll. This is compared to just 21 percent of those who are 30-49 years of age, and 25.7 percent of those between 18 and 29.
The big takeaway from this is that the trend is moving Republican, as Jacksonville proves yet again that it is most comfortable with center-right candidates. What some who project 2011 models on to this race miss is that Mike Hogan ran a hard- right campaign. Curry has not made that mistake, which has led Florida Democrats to base most of their attacks on creative interpretations of moves Curry made as RPOF chair, extrapolating those news items from three or four years ago as examples of Lenny Curry in 2015.
A secondary takeaway is that the endorsements of third-place mayoral and sheriff candidates Bill Bishop and Jimmy Holderfield have not translated into the delivery of votes that some expected. Especially when the Bishop endorsement went down, Democrats were projecting that Bishop endorsing Brown would be a “gamechanger.” The data from this poll simply does not support that interpretation. The candidates did cross party lines; however, empirical data indicates that their supporters did not follow them, confounding proponents of the “cult of personality” model.
With less than two weeks left in this race, both mayoral candidates are committed to strategies that have solidified since the first election. Curry will continue to stay positive with his messaging; Brown, meanwhile, clearly is responding to the attrition of Republican and Independent support by making rhetorical appeals to the traditional Democratic base.
That is a strategy that is fraught with peril. The Democratic coalition in Jacksonville does not necessarily have shared interests. Socially conservative black Democrats want different policy outcomes than white liberals, especially relative to LGBT rights and other issues. Expect continued triangulation from the Brown campaign, with segmented messaging across all media, as a way of keeping the base in line and stopping them from either undervoting or sitting out the election altogether. The Brown campaign made a calculated decision to recalibrate its messaging in the wake of John Delaney endorsing Curry, and it is an open question whether the current staff will be able to successfully pull that play off.
Will the Jacksonville media notice and report on such? Their willingness or ability to do so could have a direct bearing on the mayoral and sheriff’s races, as well as the City Council contretemps down the ticket.