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Amendments appear doomed come Election Day, poll shows

TALLAHASSEE – Every major constitutional amendment on the ballot looks doomed and so do the three Democrats running for Florida's Cabinet, according to a new poll of likely Florida voters.

In another sign of the rightward shift of the electorate, this Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Survey shows independents are throwing crucial support behind the GOP candidates.

So Pam Bondi will likely be the next attorney general, Jeff Atwater will likely be the next chief financial officer and Adam Putnam will win the race for agriculture commissioner.

But in a year of anti-incumbency and political shakeups, the poll also shows that the status quo will be preserved when it comes to the Constitutional amendments seeking to change the way politicians draw political districts, manage growth in local communities or pay to reduce class sizes.

The biggest eye-opener: The so-called "Hometown Democracy'' amendment that would allow citizens to vote on changes to local growth plans. More than a month ago, a majority of voters favored the amendment. Now they oppose it 58-26.

"Support for Amendment 4 has totally collapsed in the face of a strong advertising campaign by the measure's opponents," Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said. "By almost owning the airwaves, opponents have effectively flipped the numbers."

Detractors, heavily financed by developers, describe Hometown Democracy as a job-killing idea. Supporters say they want more local citizen control – and less developer influence – over City and County Hall.

Two other proposed constitutional amendments – the so-called called "Fair Districts'' plan – would also tie the hands of politicians. The amendments would prevent state legislators from favoring or disfavoring incumbents or political parties when they redraw congressional and legislative seats after the census.

Funded by liberal millionaires and Democratic-leaning unions, the Fair Districts plan directly challenges the power of the Republican-led Legislature. Republicans are the only bloc of voters who oppose the measures.

Independents – and especially Democrats – favor the two amendments by double digits.

Amendment 5, concerning legislative districts, is favored by 48 percent of likely voters and opposed by 32 percent. Amendment 6, concerning congressional districts, is favored by 46 percent and opposed by 27 percent of voters. But that's probably not enough support to garner the 60 percent of the vote needed to pass a Constitutional amendment by Election Day.

The third major constitutional amendment, concerning scaling back a class-size limitation, won't pass either according to the poll, even though it garners a narrow plurality of the vote: 45 percent. About 43 percent oppose it.

That's a big shift since September, when the last Mason-Dixon poll showed 53 percent were opposed.

The Cabinet races are a little more consistent. Republicans have steadily locked up support for months amid a conservative awakening and voter anger over the direction of the nation under Democratic control.

The poll shows:

• Bondi is ahead of Miami Beach state Sen. Dan Gelber, 44-37.

• Atwater, the outgoing Senate president, leads former Tallahassee Rep. Loranne Ausley. 39-28.

• Putnam leads former Democratic party boss Scott Maddox, 44-33.

Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

Amendments appear doomed come Election Day, poll shows 10/30/10 [Last modified: Sunday, October 31, 2010 1:35pm]

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