The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Polls: Soderberg leads Dems, Republicans in dead heat, but many undecided voters still out there

Polls of primary voters in the 6th Congressional District — which encompasses Volusia and Flagler counties — have Democrat Nancy Soderberg with a large lead over her two opponents, while the Republican race is a dead heat among the three candidates.

In both contests, however, the majority of voters remain undecided, meaning the final weeks before the Aug. 28 primary elections will be crucial for the six candidates seeking the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor.

The separate surveys were conducted in July by St. Pete Polls, an independent polling company owned by Matt Florell. The polls were not sponsored by any political group, and the random sample of voters was taken from registries, he said.

In the Democratic primary poll, Soderberg, a former Clinton administration diplomat and University of North Florida professor, picked up 30.3 percent of the vote, giving her a lead of nearly 20 percentage points. John Upchurch, an Ormond Beach attorney and travel-agency owner, received 13.1 percent, and Ormond Beach radiologist Stephen Sevigny trailed him slightly with 10.2 percent of the vote.

But nearly half of the 420 primary voters surveyed said they were still undecided. The poll, taken on July 18, had a margin of error of 4.8 percent.

“We see from this poll that when people hear Nancy’s message, they overwhelmingly support her,” said Blake Davis, Soderberg’s campaign manager, in a statement. “So we’ll continue to work to earn the trust of voters who are undecided by running a people-driven, grassroots campaign committed to changing a Washington that has forgotten for whom they work.”

The Republican side of the contest showed a far different story, with all three candidates in a statistical tie.

Fred Costello, an Ormond Beach dentist who has previously served as a state representative and Ormond Beach mayor, received 21.1 percent of the vote. Ponte Vedra Beach investor John Ward and retired Army Lt. Col. Michael Waltz trailed slightly, taking 20.5 and 20 percent of the vote, respectively.

Undecided voters will likely hold much sway because of the tight race. Of the 477 voters surveyed, 38 percent said they were still unsure. That poll, conducted on July 18, had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

The question now becomes how best to spend campaign money, in an effort to reach those voters who are undecided. According to information posted on the Federal Election Commission website, Soderberg led all candidates, with $1.5 million. Sevigny had $605,000, and Upchurch trailed with $258,000.

Costello lagged far behind his opponents in financing his campaign, having raised $180,000, of which $100,000 was his own money. Waltz and Ward both had raised more than $1 million, though they had contributed considerably larger amounts of their own money to their campaigns. Ward gave $672,535 to his own cause, and Waltz provided $400,000 of his own money.

Costello’s campaign manager, Vic Baker, said that the gap in financing mattered little.

“We believe this — people vote, dollars don’t,” Baker said. “Obviously, there are a lot of people who are withholding judgement. Fred Costello is a known quantity. He has lived, worked, led, worshiped and served with the people of district six for decades.”

by Seth Robbins

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