Florida Insider Poll: John Morgan would knock out Gwen Graham; Adam Putnam will face tough primary
Florida Democrats and Republicans are 15 months away from picking their 2018 nominees for governor, but the state's political elites see overwhelming early frontrunners.
The heavy Republican favorite is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, according to the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll. The Democratic favorite is former Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, according to the more than 200 veteran Florida political operatives, fundraisers, lobbyists, and activists participating in the unscientific survey.
Putnam's poll position is no surprise, since he's the only one running so far and for all purposes has been running for years. Others looking at the race include Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes -- more than three in four of the Insiders expect him to run -- and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater -- more than six in 10 doubt Latvala will.
Seventy-four percent expect Putnam will face a strong primary challenge, but it's not clear whom that would be. Asked about a hypothetical GOP primary pitting Putnam, Corcoran, Latvala, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of northeast Florida, a whopping 79 percent said Putnam would win, 10 percent said Corcoran, 7 percent said DeSantis, and 4 percent Latvala.
"The field is not yet set on the Republican side. We expect an outsider to be in the race for the nomination. Just ask Governor McCollum if it matters to be the early front runner," said one Republican, referring to former Attorney General Bill McCollum, who was defeated by Rick Scott in 2010.
Said a Democrat: "Putnam is well known and very likable. He is experienced and relatively moderate, which could have killed him in 2016. I think that post-Trump, in 2018 the Republicans may vote for moderate experience. Never count out Jack Latvala, a knife fighter and really smart tactician."
The Democratic field is already crowded, with Graham, the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, actively campaigning, along with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Miami Beach businessman and Mayor Philip Levine. Nearly 73 percent predicted Graham would win that four-person primary, while 12 percent said Gillum, and King and Levine each drew nearly 8 percent.
But the big question mark over that Democratic race is whether multimillionaire trial lawyer John Morgan gets in. He is flirting with running, and more than 55 percent predicted he would win the primary if he ran, while nearly 35 percent said Graham would win. The good news for Graham? More than 57 percent of the Florida Insiders doubt Morgan will wind up running.
"Morgan is the wild card and would be the favorite in a primary," said a Democrat. "He is the Democrats' antidote to Trump and would not need as much money as the other candidates to build name recognition. If Morgan doesn't run, I think a fresh face like Chris King could gain traction in a primary. His Achilles' heel will be fundraising but if he keeps up his pace, his momentum will carry him through."
"Nobody on the D side will outwork, or outraise Graham. She's proven she knows how to work a campaign," another Democrat said. "Ultimately I think Morgan will decide his highest and best use is not jeopardizing the brand he's spent a lifetime developing, but working to force the Legislature to enact the medical marijuana amendment and (hopefully) to mount another statewide campaign to raise the minimum wage."
We allow Florida Insiders to weigh in anononymously to encourage frank assessments and predictions. This month's participants included 106 Republicans, 87 Democrats and 15 people registered to neither major party. They are:
Jason Rosenberg, Christian Camara, Zachariah Zachariah, Eric Zichella, Gerald Wester, Peter Wallace, JC Planas, Joe Gruters, Julia Gill Woodward, Chris Hartline, Susie Wiles, Steve Schale, Rodney Barreto, Brett Doster, Sam Rashid, Roly Marante, Christian Ulvert, Oscar Anderson, Mathew Corrigan, Ken Jones, Screven Watson, Marc Reichelderfer, Ben Pollara, Jim Cherry, Charles Dudley, Brad Coker, Stephanie McClung, Kathy Mears, Ashley Walker, Meredith O'Rourke, Dan McLaughlin, Jim Horne, Phillip Thompson, Christian Ziegler, Tre Evers, Jim Davis, Scott Arceneaux, Doug Kaplan, George Riley, Stephanie Grutman, Cory Tilley, Eric Jotkoff, John Dowless, Mac Stipanovich, Rich Ramos, Bernie Campbell, Hayden Dempsey, Ron Pierce, Peter Antonacci, Beth Leytham, Steve Vancore, Justin Day, Jill Chamberlin, John Wehrung, John French, Rich Heffley,Pete Dunbar, Bill Lee, Ann Herberger, Brian Franklin, Sean Phillippi, Gus Corbella, Ryan Duffy, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Mel Sembler, Rick Wilson, Dave Aronberg, Anthony Bonna, Chip Case, Brian Burgess, Jon Costello, Stafford Jones, Erin VanSickle, Brian Crowley, Chris Cate, David Bishop, Jason Altmire, Stephanie Kunkel, Kirk Pepper, Alan Stonecipher, Van Poole, Chris Korge, Christina Johnson, Clarence McKee, Frank Tsamoutales, Steve Geller, David Johnson, Alex Patton, Kevin King, Aubrey Jewett, Chris Hand, Franco Ripple, Henry Kelley, Nancy Texeira, Pablo Diaz, Katie Bohnett, Bud Shorstein, Leslie Wimes, Lucy Morgan, Travis Blanton, Ron Bilbao, Robin Rorapaugh, Kevin Cate, Alan Clendenin, Christina Baker, Pat Neal, Ashley Bauman, Karl Koch, Jack Furnari, Eric Eikenberg, Doc Dockery, Darryl Paulson, Jon Mills, Susannah Randolph, David Beattie, Brian Goff, Mark Ferrulo, Jason Unger, John Morgan, Ryan Tyson, Cesar Fernandez, Zach Learner, Erik Kirk, Tom Alte, Jeff Kottkamp, Patrick Slevin, Mike Fasano, Pete Mitchell, Jack Seiler, Paula Dockery, Victor DiMaio, David Mica, Jason Roth, Betty Castor, Ron Greenstein, Kathleen Shanahan, Richard DeNapoli, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Darrick D. McGhee, Mike Williams, Greg Goddard, Mike Hamby, Dominic Calabro, Greg Turbeville, Jim Rimes, Tom Lewis, Patrick Manteiga, Matthew Isbell, Towson Fraser, April Schiff, Matthew Van Name, Stephen Shiver, Don Hinkle, Seth McKee, Joshua Karp, David Rancourt, Thomas Grigsby, Husein Cumber, Mark Zubaly, Susan Smith, Greg Blair, Amber Stoner, Paul Mitchell, Ron Gunzburger, Marion Hammer, Damien Filer, Tom Scarritt, Bob Sparks, Nancy McGowan, Ellen Freidin, Barry Edwards, Jose Mallea, Susan Glickman, Ana Cruz, Peter Feaman, Jack Hebert, Fred Karlinsky, Andrew Weinstein, Jamie Miller, Ryan Banfill, Omar Khan, Gretchen Picotte, Josh Geise, Matt Bryan, Allan Bense, Jon Ausman, Jeff Johnson, Susan MacManus, Jamie Wilson, Fred Cunningham, Mitch Ceasar, Karen Unger, Wayne Bertsch, Jackie Lee, Jon Woodard, Nan Rich, Robert Wexler, Chip LaMarca,Reggie Cardozo, Greg C. Truax, Marty Fiorentino, Gregory Wilson, Abel Harding, Bob Graham