Former Orlando police chief Val Demings holds a commanding lead of more than 20 points over her nearest Democratic rival in the race for Florida’s newly drawn 10th Congressional District, according to a new poll commissioned by her campaign.
Demings' 44-22 percent lead over state Sen. Geraldine Thompson cuts across racial, ethnic and gender lines, the Public Policy Polling survey of 506 self-described likely Democratic voters shows.
“What you see with the chief is she’s winning with blacks, with whites and with Hispanics. She’s just in a strong position,” said her adviser, Jefrey Pollock, who commissioned the outside polling firm to get an independent and neutral take on the race.
The numbers are bad for the third Democrat in the race, Bob Poe, a white male in the strongly minority district. Poe pulls only 7 percent of the theoretical vote. Poe, a longtime Democratic fundraiser and former executive director of the state party, is also the least-known in the district, with 66 percent saying they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.
But among those who do know Poe, 21 percent have an unfavorable impression while only 14 percent have a favorable view of Poe, meaning his net favorable numbers are a net negative of -7. Demings is the best-liked, with 55 percent viewing her favorably and 17 percent unfavorably, a net favorability of +38. Thompson’s numbers: 48 percent favorable, 23 percent unfavorable, a net favorability of +25. The poll's margin of error is 4.5 percentage points, and 25 percent are undecided.
“Geraldine has fine favorability numbers. They’re both equally well-known. But the chief is beating her overall,” Pollock said.
Demings also has two heavyweight endorsements in a Democratic race: Emily’s List and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
The establishment support has helped Demings win the fundraising war against Thompson. Demings raised about $156,000 last quarter while Thompson raised about $102,000 — of which $66,000 was a loan from the state senator. Demings closed 2015 with about $267,000 in the bank compared to Thompson's $86,000. There are no financial reports for Poe, who officially declared after the close of last quarter, but his campaign said Tuesday that he raised $77,000 in 24 days and loaned himself $265,000.
Aside from being the first African-American female police chief of Orlando, Demings has another name-identification advantage in the race: Her husband, Jerry Demings, is the sheriff of Orange County. Val Demings ran for Congress in 2012, but lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Webster by 51.7-48.3 percent.
Since that race, though, the district has been completely redrawn. It’s now far more Democratic-leaning and even Webster has acknowledged that the seat will be tougher for him to retain.