A competitive Miami-Dade state Senate seat is a toss-up with almost a third of potential voters undecided about five months ahead of the general election, according to an internal Democratic poll obtained by the Herald/Times.
In the race for the newly redrawn District 37 seat, Republican state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla is up two percentage points on Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez -- a statistical tie, since it's within the margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
The two candidates, both of whom live in Miami, officially launched their campaigns in May, though they filed for the race several months ago.
About 37 percent of those surveyed said they preferred Diaz de la Portilla, 35 percent supported Rodriguez and 29 percent were undecided, according to the polling memo. Raw data from the poll, including a list of specific questions asked, was requested but not provided.
From June 1-6, Tampa-based SEA Polling & Strategic Design surveyed 540 district voters expected to vote in the legislative contest. The poll was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party as an in-kind contribution to Rodriguez's campaign.
District 37 represents much of the city of Miami and stretches south along the coast to include Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and Cutler Bay. It leans Democratic and is heavily Hispanic.
It's one of a few Miami-Dade state Senate seats that Florida Democrats hope to win in November, which would help them narrow the Republican majority in the chamber.
But it'll be a rough battle between Diaz de la Portilla and Rodriguez.
Heading into May, Diaz de la Portilla had considerably stronger fundraising numbers than Rodriguez. (The campaigns' reports for May are due today and not available yet.)
And the sitting senator also picked up a valuable endorsement this week from the Florida chapter of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It's rare for labor unions to endorse Republican candidates. (AFSCME Florida also endorsed Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores this week in her close contest against Democrat Andrew Korge for District 39.)
The Democratic poll for District 37 showed potential voters' party preference leans in Democrats' favor. In general, 39 percent of respondents said they would support a Democratic candidate, 35 percent said they would support a Republican candidate, 22 percent had no preference and 4 percent said they didn't know.
"We know that Miami-Dade continues to change and the poll confirms what we’ve known all along," Christian Ulvert, a campaign adviser to Rodriguez, said in a statement. "Despite almost 30 years of a Diaz de la Portilla in office in Miami-Dade, Jose Javier Rodriguez starts the race tied with Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. The residents in SD37 are very much aligned with the values and principles of Jose Javier Rodriguez and he is well-positioned to carry the district with their support."
Diaz de la Portilla found optimism in the poll, too, and was critical of his opponent.
"The reason Mr. Rodriguez can't even win in his own paid push poll is the same reason why he won't win this election: People here know he parachuted into our community a few short years ago to run for office," Diaz de la Portilla said in a text message. "My constituents will ask themselves: If he doesn't know us and doesn't share our values, how can he represent us?"