The District 2 seat on the Pinellas County Commission is well within reach for Republican Brian Scott, according to new polling. The only person in his way — incumbent Democrat Pat Gerard.
Scott, who works as president of Escot Bus Lines, took the Republican nomination for the seat in last week’s Primary, collecting 66% of the vote compared to opponent Debbie Buschman’s 33%. Now, he’s off to the General Election against Gerard, who has held the District 2 seat since 2014.
Although Gerard has kept a solid hold on the seat since her initial election, a recent survey conducted by polling firm Cygnal found that the incumbent is in for a competitive, tight race.
The poll, conducted between Aug. 16-18 among 400 likely General Election voters, found the pair tied at 42% apiece, with 16% of voters remaining undecided.
Why the tight race? National politics may be influencing local races, with voters unhappy with Democratic President Joe Biden, who has a net negative image of -10, according to the poll. And only 9% of voters polled said Pinellas County is “definitely headed in the right direction.”
Name recognition may also account for Scott’s tie with an incumbent. The poll found that Gerard’s name recognition is only 19%, low for an incumbent, compared to Scott’s 22% name recognition. According to the poll, Scott started out with a solid image among voters (+6 net image), with time to further define himself.
The top priorities for voters in the Commission race include addressing inflation and the high cost of living.
Scott also has the funding to compete with the incumbent.
While Gerard leads in overall fundraising, amassing $261,165 since launching her re-election campaign, Scott has collected $228,578 since announcing his run.
For years, the GOP has been looking to retake the district after Gerard flipped the seat blue upon her initial election, replacing former Commissioner Norm Roche. Roche lost the Republican Primary that year to now-Sen. Ed Hooper, who lost to Gerard in the General Election.
If Scott flips the seat, the makeup of the County Commission will change from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a Republican majority.
District 2 is an at large seat covering northwest Pinellas County, but it is voted on countywide. The county has a slight Republican advantage, with 245,875 Republicans, 237,802 Democrats and 209,339 no-party or third-party registered voters.