1. Florida Politics

March: Poll shows the Pat (Frank) & Pat (Kemp) show leads Democratic primaries

A new poll shows Pat Kemp, seen here running for Hillsborough County Commission in 2014, is ahead of her Democratic rivals for a commission seat in 2016. [SAM OWENS   |   Times]
A new poll shows Pat Kemp, seen here running for Hillsborough County Commission in 2014, is ahead of her Democratic rivals for a commission seat in 2016. [SAM OWENS | Times]
Published Jun. 10, 2016

TAMPA — A new poll shows Pat Kemp leading the Democratic primary for the District 6 countywide Hillsborough County Commission seat and Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank far ahead of Democratic rival Kevin Beckner.

The poll was commissioned by local political consultant Barry Edwards.

The StPetePolls robopoll included responses from 502 likely primary voters and had a 4.4-point error margin. The results appear to reflect the stronger name recognition for the two leading candidates.

In the clerk's race, Frank led Beckner 48 to 29 percent of those polled with 23 percent undecided. She and Beckner are both popular with Democrats. But Frank is a local Democratic icon and much better known than Beckner, who is vacating his county commission seat due to term limits.

She drew 57-17 percent favorable to unfavorable opinions, with 26 percent undecided. Beckner got 34-17 percent favorable-unfavorable with 48 percent undecided.

In the District 6 commission race Kemp led the four candidates with the support of 34 percent of those polled. Tom Scott drew 24 percent, John Dicks 6 percent and Brian Willis, the leading fundraiser in the primary, got 4 percent.

Edwards, a Democrat who sometimes works across party lines, said he isn't working for any of the candidates in the poll. But he said he paid for the poll because he may eventually end up working for them later this election season.

He said the poll suggests the District 6 primary "is a two- candidate race." But Edwards noted that Scott, formerly one of the county's most prominent black elected officials, "hasn't been able to penetrate the white community yet" according to the racial breakdown of his backers.

Women voters will likely dominate the primary, Edwards said, making Kemp, the only woman in the race, "a strong frontrunner." That's also why Frank's name recognition "will make her tough for a two-term commissioner to compete against."

Buckhorn to keep low profile at gala

How visible politicians make themselves at party functions — such as the state Democratic Party's Blue Gala fundraising dinner in Hollywood on June 18 — can be an indicator of whether they plan to run for office soon.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the subject of speculation in the 2018 governor's race, said he's going to the event, bought a table for the dinner and plans to make the round of caucus meetings beforehand.

But Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee, will have higher profiles.

Graham will host a reception celebrating diversity the night before, plans to speak at several caucus meetings and has an ad in the program plus a dinner table.

Levine is also hosting a table and hitting the caucuses and will hold a reception for local government officials. Interestingly, one co-host is Tampa City Council Chairman Mike Suarez, who's active in the party.

Viera gets party leaders' support

In the race to replace Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione, lawyer and civic activist Luis Viera is drawing support from local Democratic leaders.

This week, he announced an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, and plans to announce endorsements soon from former congressman Jim Davis of Tampa, former state Rep. Mary Figg of Lutz, and Suarez.

Viera has been more involved in party politics than his opponents, former Tampa police Officer Orlando Gudes, newspaper editor Gene Siudut and health care data maven Cyril Spiro.

Viera said prominent local Democrat Alex Sink has told him she'll stay neutral.

Smith self-funding state House race

Rebecca Smith will report raising a whopping $199,428 in May in her District 60 state House primary against Jackie Toledo. But most of that, $165,528, is Smith's own money.

That will bring her total raised to $312,000, with $287,000 cash on hand.

Toledo, who put $25,000 into her campaign in April, has not yet announced her May fundraising haul.

Buesing raises six figures in Senate bid

Bob Buesing, who is running against state Rep. Dana Young for the state Senate seat in District 18, raised $101,883 in May, the first month of his campaign. That includes $5,500 of his own money.

That's good for a first-time candidate and a Democrat, but Young raised $166,700 and now has a total of $462,612 for this election cycle — plus another $616,714 in her independent political committee, Friends of Dana Young.

Contact William March at