Poll: John Rutherford holds double digit lead in CD 4 race

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A University of North Florida poll released Wednesday of likely Republican voters in the 4th Congressional District primary shows John Rutherford with a double-digit lead.

Rutherford leads the race with 27 percent, setting the pace for the field.

Behind him: Hans Tanzler in second place with 13 percent, and state Rep. Lake Ray in third place with 9 percent.

Beyond those three, some statistical blips: St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure with 2 percent, Deborah Katz Pueschel with 2 percent, and Ed Malin and Stephen Kaufman with less than 1 percent each.

The poll of 403 likely Republican voters was conducted June 28 and June 29 by telephone, with 54 percent of respondents being contacted on a cell phone.

Rutherford holds a lead among voters in Duval, St. Johns, and Nassau counties; however, there are deviations worth noting in the response data.

While Rutherford holds a 15-point lead over Tanzler (30 percent to 15 percent) in Duval County, Lake Ray is close behind Tanzler, with 14 percent.

Meanwhile, Tanzler, the son of Jacksonville’s first post-consolidation mayor, is actually most competitive in Nassau, where he trails Rutherford 25 percent to 14 percent.

Tanzler polls better outside of Duval County, perhaps on the strength of his recent television ads, which show him on horseback, firing a rifle, and generally holding forth about the virtues of hard work and rustic living.

Those ads, which have been mocked by many in Jacksonville’s smart set, seem to be resonating with CD 4 voters in more rural areas.

The UNF poll shows Rutherford comfortably ahead, albeit in a race that is tighter than that in two recent polls.

“Rutherford leads early in this race, but considering the vast amount of indecision among likely voters, Tanzler and Ray could still be contenders,” said Dr. Michael Binder, UNF’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory faculty director. “Although Rutherford is the frontrunner, I expected the size of his lead to be much larger.”

Another notable feature of this poll: Lake Ray’s 14 percent support in Duval County does not translate throughout the district.

“Breaking down the results by county reflects relatively consistent support for Rutherford and Tanzler, while Lake Ray’s support dwindles outside of Duval County. Furthermore, the percent of likely Republican voters unsure for whom they will vote is substantially larger in St. Johns and Nassau Counties in comparison to Duval,” Binder said.

Ray’s 7 percent support in Nassau County puts him in third place there.

However, in St. Johns County, Ray polls at an anemic 1 percent, putting him behind perennial candidate Pueschel, who has never come close to winning an election anywhere, and Commissioner McClure, whose 2 percent in his home county raises existential questions about from where his support might hail.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.