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Democrats? What Democrats? Voters Largely Unaware of 2018 Gubernatorial Nominees

December 11, 2017 - 4:15pm
Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham
Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham

Orlando superattorney John Morgan left the Democratic Party last month, ending ongoing speculation he would be the party’s best shot at taking the governor’s mansion back in 2018. Despite having four declared candidates in the race, a new poll shows Democrats largely aren’t too hot on their options, hardly knowing who is running for the office next year.

In October, the Associated Industries of Florida conducted a name recognition poll of Democratic voters and found Morgan leading the pack, taking 24 percent of the vote. 

Morgan was followed by former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who took 17 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

With Morgan out of the race -- for now -- an updated AIF poll shows Morgan’s voters aren’t going to the other candidates. 

Voters mainly recognize two candidates among the four possible Democratic gubernatorial nominees, but not by much. Graham led the pack among the four candidates in the survey, with 24 percent of the vote, followed by Gillum, who took 17 percent of the vote.

Democrats are hoping to take back the governor’s mansion next year, but the AIF poll proves they have an uphill battle ahead with most voters not even knowing who they are.

In the poll, AIF asked a simple, open-ended question: Can you tell me the names of any of the Democratic candidates running to replace Rick Scott in 2018?

As it turns out, most voters can’t.

Only 13 percent of respondents named Graham as a contender, followed by Gillum, who took 11 percent. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who has the most money for his bid in the bank, only took 10 percent of the vote, followed by Orlando businessman Chris King, who was recognized by eight percent of respondents.

A much larger number -- 40 percent -- said they weren’t sure, while 14 percent identified some other candidate. 

Despite the low recognition numbers, Gillum’s campaign team chose to highlight what they saw as an improvement from October’s polling results, which showed only five percent of voters recognized the Tallahassee mayor, who was the first candidate to declare he’d run in March. 

“The momentum is shifting our way -- in spite of headwinds we've faced -- and we're thrilled about today's news,” Gillum’s campaign spokesperson Geoff Burgan wrote in an email Monday. “From Day One we have said the Mayor is the most dynamic and exciting candidate in this race, and today's news shows we have the momentum to win back the Governor's Mansion in 2018.”

Still, Gillum’s campaign has suffered numerous setbacks, with the cloud of an FBI investigation over the city of Tallahassee as well as an incredibly difficult time raising money. 

An example: Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, posted -$500 in campaign contributions in October. In November, the committee raised $2,950, leaving it with $20,000 cash on hand.

A lagging financial situation could prove detrimental to Gillum -- large sums of money boost name recognition, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is leading the way among Democrats. Levine said he plans to self-fund a significant amount of his campaign and has already given $2.5 million to his bid.

The poll of 300 likely voters was conducted Dec. 1-4, 2017 with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval.


Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.




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