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Levine holds double-digit lead in Democratic primary for governor, poll finds

Former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine is running as a Democrat for Florida governor. He’s launching a bus tour next week to elevate his platform outside of South Florida.
Former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine is running as a Democrat for Florida governor. He’s launching a bus tour next week to elevate his platform outside of South Florida. MIAMI HERALD

With absentee voting set to begin in less than two months, a new and independent poll shows former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine holds a double-digit lead in the Democratic primary for Florida governor.

Levine pulled 32 percent in a poll of 600 likely voters conducted this week by SEA Polling & Strategic Design — compared to 37 percent for the rest of the field combined.

Former congresswoman Gwen Graham pulled 16 percent; Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gilllum, 11; Winter Park businessman Chris King, 6; and real estate tycoon Jeff Greene, 4 percent.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. Its findings were first reported by Politico.

Tom Eldon, the veteran pollster behind the numbers, said the poll was commissioned by an independent group that is not affiliated with any of the five campaigns in the primary. His findings appear to validate Levine's internal numbers, which have put him ahead of the field for months now, significantly so in South Florida and Tampa.

Eldon found Levine with 47 percent support in South Florida, and 37 percent in Tampa. Levine's campaign has been touting its numbers for months in those areas — markets that have both high numbers of Democratic voters and high costs for advertising.

"It looks like from Miami Beach to Palm Beach, Levine is beginning to lock down South Florida," Eldon said Thursday while discussing a poll that looked specifically at the candidates' numbers in South Florida. "That’s going to force some very difficult decisions on his opponents."

The poll also appears to validate Levine's strategy of going on television early and spending millions on commercials at a time when many voters weren't particularly attuned to the governor's election. Those ads — run at a time when air time is less congested and cheaper and funded at least in part by millions of Levine's own dollars — have helped Levine define his campaign and boost his name recognition.

The race is, however, not over by any means. Eldon found that just under a third of voters remain undecided, and that the I-4 corridor, a crucial battleground for any candidate, remains clustered. In Orlando, the poll found Gillum ahead with 19 percent.

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