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Buchanan, Good tout differing polls in race for Florida Congressional seat

Seeking to build momentum in the final weeks, campaigns share polling data showing widely different outcomes for Florida’s 16th Congressional District.
Democratic challenger Margaret Good, left, and Florida 16th Congressional District incumbent Vern Buchanan.
Democratic challenger Margaret Good, left, and Florida 16th Congressional District incumbent Vern Buchanan. [ Times ]
Published Oct. 5, 2020
Updated Oct. 5, 2020

TAMPA — With the general election less than a month away, both candidates for Florida’s 16th Congressional District are touting polls that show they have the momentum to win the seat.

Democratic candidate Margaret Good on Monday released a poll that shows her trailing GOP incumbent Vern Buchanan by just 6 points in the seat that covers covers Manatee County, Sarasota and southern Hillsborough, including Sun City Center and parts of Fish Hawk, Gibsonton and Riverview.

“This is not 2016. The Republican Party’s brand has taken a hit, and Democrats can compete up and down the ballot,” the poll conducted by Global Strategy Group states. It was commissioned by the Good campaign.

But Buchanan’s campaign has fired back by releasing a poll of its own, which shows the longtime congressman leading Good by 53 percent to 37 percent across the district.

“Vern has maintained a 16-point lead in this race because of his strong record of accomplishment that includes 22 bills signed into law, compared with zero for Margaret,” said Max Goodman, Buchanan’s campaign manager. “Vern is recognized by nonpartisan groups as one of the most bipartisan and effective members of Congress while Margaret is a partisan gadfly with no record of achievement.”

Related: Buchanan and Good launch first 2020 campaign ads as Florida congressional battle begins

A close race would be a surprise to some political observers.

The seat is listed as “Likely Republican” by the Cook Report, a nonpartisan website that handicaps political races.

Also, it was not chosen by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in its “Swing the House” effort. It is seeking to raise $1 million in donations for congressional seats in six swing states considered likely to swing Democratic. In Florida, that effort will focus on three Democratic candidates: Alan Cohn (15th District), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (26th District) and Donna Shalala (27 District).

But it is listed on the DCCC’s Red to Blue, an effort to increase the Democrat’s majority in the U.S. House of Representatives by raising donations for “top-tier candidates.”

The 16th District has voted solidly Republican since it was redrawn in 2013. About 40 percent of its registered voters are Republicans, compared to just 33 percent Democrats.

But about one quarter of voters are registered as non-party affiliated and could help decide the race.

According to Good’s poll, 47 percent of independents have an unfavorable rating of Buchanan, and it gives her an 8-point lead over him among that group.

The telephone survey sampled 500 likely general election voters in a four-day period through Sept. 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

But that is disputed by the Buchanan campaign based on its poll. It found that 54 percent of independents support him, compared to just 30 percent for Good. It also touts a 25-point lead for him among seniors over 65.

“Failing to compete for the senior vote in a district like CD16 makes a Democrat’s path to victory extremely (and perhaps impossibly) narrow,” the poll conducted by Data Targeting states.

It sampled 400 likely voters and was conducted over three days through Oct. 1.

Buchanan has raised more than $3 million for his campaign, which includes more than $500,000 that he loaned himself.

Good has raised about $2.7 million, which includes about $1.1 million raised in the past three months.

Her campaign manager Alex Koren disputes Buchanan’s legislative record, saying most of his 22 bills were amendments to those proposed by other lawmakers. Good has had similar success in Tallahassee with her proposal for stricter standards for the level of nutrients in stormwater being added to a broader environmental bill, he said.

“Clearly, the voters of the 16th District are ready for change, and I look forward to working for them in Congress on the issues that are important to them, like strengthening our economy, solving our water quality issues and lowering health care costs,” said Good in a statement.