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Monday, August 07, 2006

Ag. Commissioner Race Has Implications for Republicans Statewide

Downticket statewide races like Commissioner of Agriculture usually attract little attention - and incumbents like Charles Bronson are rarely threatened, with such seats often only becoming competitive after a retirement leaves it open. But this year, in Florida, things aren't working out that way.

A poll by the Republican firm of McLaughlin & Associates found Republican incumbent Charlie Bronson leading Democrat Eric Copeland by a mere 27 percent to 23 percent - within the margin of error - with 50 percent undecided.

Copeland had originally filed to fun for Attorney General, but switch to run for Commissioner of Agriculture after Democratic Senator Walter "Skip" Campbell joined the race. It was widely assumed that Copeland was primarily running to build his statewide profile for later campaign, but this poll suddenly puts him into contention.

The incumbent does has a large fundraising advantage. Bronson has rasied $1,139,473.42 and has $988,830.75 on hand, compared to only $32,390.03 rasied by Copeland, who has also loaned his campaign $132,000 and has $158,454.84 cash on hand. Copeland may be able to improve his fundraising, based on this poll, but will almost certainly remain at a monetary disadvantage to Bronson.

In a broader sense, looking beyond the Bronson-Copeland race, this poll seems to suggest that, at the statewide level at least, Florida voters are willing to give Democrats a chance in virtually any statewide race (gerrymandering has rendered most legislative races uncompetitive - our own SD 16 being a notable exception).

This is upheld by the latest Rasmussen poll, which has GOP frontrunner Charlie Crist's lead over Democratic frontrunner Jim Davis narrowing the lead to five points. In the previous poll, taken in late June, Crist held a fourteen point lead.

Campaign finance numbers courtesy of the Florida Division of Elections.

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