A couple of recent polls are showing an apparently tight race for Tampa’s District 60 state House seat, where Democrat Julie Jenkins is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Jackie Toledo.
One poll, done by the Democratic Party for the Jenkins campaign, shows a mixed result, with Toledo ahead but Jenkins edging into a lead after voters were read introductory statements about each candidate.
Another, by StPetePolls for the Florida Politics blog, shows Jenkins significantly ahead.
But both showed large undecideds and results that appear to be within the error margins, suggesting a race that could go either way.
“The public polling doesn’t reflect our numbers (but) we’ve always campaigned like this was a competitive seat,” said Toledo.
Jenkins said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the StPetePolls outcome. She noted that Toledo has been in the office for four years, and “When these polls were done we hadn’t spent any money. We feel good.”
The Democratic Party poll showed Toledo up 42-36 percent, but Jenkins moved to a 45-44 percent lead after voters were read a positive description of both candidates. The error margin was greater than four points.
The StPetePolls survey showed Jenkins up 48-42 percent, with a 4.5-point error margin.
Pollsters say error margins in a poll can apply to both candidates' totals.
District 60, though long held by Republicans, is on the political knife edge. In 2016, Donald Trump won it by 1.3 points, and in 2018, Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis both won it by less than 1 point, according to MCI Maps.
However, Toledo and her predecessor, former Rep. Dana Young, have both won it by larger margins – Young won twice without Democratic opposition.
Lanz reported illegal contributions
Republican District 3 county commission candidate Maura Cruz Lanz reported two loans to her campaign in May and July that would violate Florida campaign contribution limits, then amended her campaign reports immediately after the Times asked her about them.
Lanz reported a May 27 loan of $8,900 from Manuel Lanz Sr. of the same Wishart Boulevard address as her own, and a July 30 loan of $5,000 from Manuel Lanz with an address on Habana Avenue.
According to Florida law, said Ron Meyer, a Tallahassee-based elections law expert, loans to a campaign from anyone other than the candidate are considered contributions and must meet the contributions limit of $1,000.
Lanz, running in the heavily Black and Democratic District 3 against Democrat Gwen Myers, is a long shot.
Lanz said via email that the loans “are from me personally to my campaign,” and the initial reports were “an error that has been rectified.” Candidates can loan or give their campaigns any amount.
She filed amended reports Wednesday but didn’t respond directly when asked why the original reports showed other lenders.
By law, personal loans or gifts made to a candidate for the purpose of aiding the campaign, regardless whom they come from, are also considered contributions subject to the limits.
Republicans warned of exposure
Throughout July and August, the Hillsborough County GOP and its clubs and Republican candidates have continued to hold in-person events, often indoors, including the Sept. 10 meeting of the local party’s governing body, the executive committee.
But the day after that meeting, those who attended got an email from the party saying they may have been exposed to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19 — Angel Urbina, the GOP candidate for the West Tampa District 62 state House seat.
It said Urbina had received a positive test result the day after the meeting.
The event was a buffet dinner at an event center in a Brandon strip mall. Several attendees said about 60 to 75 attended. Signage said masks were required to enter and most wore them, but took them off to eat and for the rest of the meeting, a couple of attendees said.
One attendee, Terry Castro, noted seeing Urbina wearing a mask as he moved among the tables greeting supporters. She said she has spoken to three attendees who had close contact with Urbina, all of whom self-quarantined until they received negative test results.
Urbina said he has never had any COVID 19 symptoms but took the test because it was required for treatment of his back problems at a VA clinic. He said he’s self-quarantining for two weeks, longer than the VA recommended.
Justice buys first TV ad
Democratic Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice has put up his first television ad, with what he described as “a healthy buy” on the Spectrum cable system – he wouldn’t say exactly how much.
The 30-second spot is a positive message ad that talks about the importance of county government during the pandemic, with no mention of his opponent in the countywide race, Republican Tammy Sue Vasquez.
“Your county government does important work,” he says in the ad. “Keeping you safe and secure is a job I’m privileged to have.”
Koster starts strong with GOP help
Boosted by help from the state Republican Party, Tracy Koster, the person chosen to replace state Rep. Jamie Grant on the state House District 64 ballot, raised $55,707 in her first 18 days as a candidate, Aug. 17-Sept. 4.
That included $27,000 from the party and 16 contributions from various political committees and lobbyists, most Tallahassee-based, and most for the maximum $1,000.
Koster was the choice of incoming state House Speaker Chris Sprowls for the open ballot slot created when Grant resigned the Pinellas-Hillsborough seat in August. As speaker, Sprowls has strong influence on business and interest groups who donate to candidates.
Democrat Jessica Harrington, in the race since December 2018, still holds an overall fundraising lead in the race with $159,584 cash raised. She has received many small contributions from Democrats nationwide after national publicity over Grant’s role in legislation that undercut restoration of voting rights for former felons.
She has received $5,200 from the Hillsborough party, $5,000 from the Pinellas party, and $8,000 cash plus payroll costs from the state party.