Florida Influencer Poll: Charlie Crist, Laurel Lee, Anna Paulina Luna primed for Primary wins

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Who will win the Republican Primaries in Florida’s 13th and 15th Congressional Districts? Who will come out on top in the Democratic Primary for Governor? And who will not be running for President in two years?

For our latest Florida Influencer Poll, we asked a sample of political experts and insiders these questions and found pretty strong feelings.

In the Pinellas-based CD 13, 83% of Influencers say Anna Paulina Luna will repeat as the Republican nominee while only 12% believe Kevin Hayslett can manage to pull off a come-from-behind victory. Amanda Makki was the only other candidate to register, picking up the remaining 5%.

In CD 15, another Tampa Bay-area seat, a majority of Influencers (61%) are putting their chips behind former Secretary of State Laurel Lee to win the GOP nomination. Exiting state Sen. Kelli Stargel was the pick for about a quarter of Influencers.

State Rep. Jackie Toledo garnered just 14%, but she has some true believers in her corner, with one telling Florida Politics she “is not to be underestimated.” Others, however, said while they believe the contest will boil down to Lee vs. Toledo, Lee’s cash advantage will help her secure the victory.

And, in what was perhaps the least shocking prediction in the survey, Influencers say U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist will defeat Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic Primary for Governor. It wasn’t close — the former Republican Governor and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee is seen as the likely winner by 94% of Influencers compared to just 6% who believe Fried will have the edge once all votes are counted.

Though Crist is the favorite, a handful of Influencers assert that a Fried victory would produce a ripple effect that could tilt the scales in November.

“If Nikki Fried can overcome the entire Democratic establishment working against her, she will bring serious national donors back into Florida. Crist can’t do that,” one Influencer said. Another added, “Nikki is clearly the underdog, but Crist’s decision to go negative makes clear that his polling shows her momentum and that he does not believe he has the primary won.”

There are, of course, many other races on the ballot this year, and Florida Politics asked which ones Influencers had their eyes on. Many of the ones that got a shoutout are seen as bellwethers for Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ power.

One such race is House District 16, where DeSantis recently endorsed outsider candidate Kiyan Michaeland staked her campaign with $50,000. She faces former Rep. Lake Ray, who represented the Jacksonville area for eight years and has a bundle of campaign and committee cash, and Chet Stokes, who despite recent controversy has led in fundraising throughout the race.

As one Influencer put it, “Can the Governor drop in at the last second and save a candidate?”

The Senate District 14 contest between Tampa Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz and Republican Jay Collins will also draw a lot of eyeballs. The Governor’s endorsement of Collins led former Rep. Shawn Harrison to bow out of the race, but Cruz has proved in the past that she can win tight contests.

According to some Influencers, if Collins comes out on top, it may have more to do with the race for Senate District 35, where Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book has been forced to drop some cash to stave off a Primary challenger.

“Lauren Book will win her Primary but any Senate Dem losses can be laid at the feet of Ron DeSantis and Barbara Sharief,” one Influencer said.

Finally, Florida Politics asked Influencers which likely 2024 candidate they believe will ultimately not run for President. More than half (52%) said Joe Biden — an uncontroversial pick, considering some in his own party are already flirting with mounting their own runs. The No. 2 pick was Donald Trump at 32%.

“President Joe Biden is not going to run for reelection. But, he can’t say or imply that because it would make him more of a lame duck than he already is,” one Influencer said.

Comparatively few (16%) believe that Gov. Ron DeSantis will “wait his turn,” as Kellyanne Conway recently suggested, with the consensus being that his star will rise above Trump’s between now and 2024. What’s less clear is when Trump will realize his former prot?g? has him beat.

One Influencer summed it up thusly: “(Trump is) clearly going to run because he’s a narcissist and that need fuels everything he does, but I also think that narcissism will cause him to cut bait and run early in order to save face and pretend the world is unjustly against him.”

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The Influencers who took part in this survey: Lester Abberger, Koby Adams, Phil Ammann, Rick Asnani,Roger Austin, Mario Bailey, Tim Baker, Robert Beck, Geoffrey Becker, Wayne Bertsch, Taylor Patrick Biehl, Barney Bishop III , Katie Bohnett, Lydia Claire Brooks, Kevin Cate, Josh Cooper, Gus Corbella,Karen Cyphers, Juan Del Cerro, Pablo Diaz, V?ctor Rudy Dimaio, Barry Edwards, Alia Faraj-Johnson,Matt Florell, Towson Fraser, Marion Hammer, Abel Harding, Jeff Hartley, Rich Heffley, Cynthia Henderson, Tasi Hogan, Jim Horne, Erin Isaac, Tanya Jackson, Jeff Johnson, Christina Johnson, David Johnson, Jon Johnson, Fred Karlinsky, Micah Ketchel, Russ Klenet, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer,John Lux, Beth Matuga, Kathy Mears, Sal Nuzzo, Meredith O’Rourke, Edie Ousley, Alex Pantinakis,Darryl Paulson, Ron Pierce, Evan Power, Bert Ralston, Marc Reichelderfer, Darren Richards, Jim Rimes, Franco Ripple, Evan Ross, Preston Rudie, Elnatan Rudolph, Steve Simeonidis, Patrick Slevin,John Stemberger, Mac Stipanovich, Chris Stranburg, Alan Suskey, Kevin Sweeny, Herbie Thiele,Christian Ulvert, Steven Vancore, Claire VanSusteren, Nancy Watkins, Screven Watson, Christian Weiss, Andrew Wiggins, Gregory Wilson, Peter Wish.

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