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Poll: Carlos Gimenez leads Miami-Dade mayor's race but needs to boost Democratic support

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Gimenez holds an 18-percentage-point lead in his re-election bid as Miami-Dade County mayor, according to a new public-opinion poll, but needs to bolster support among traditional Democratic voters to win the non-partisan race outright.

The Republican mayor is ahead of his two rivals who have raised any campaign cash worth noting, found the survey conducted by Associated Industries of Florida, a Tallahassee-based business organization with a premier polling operation.

Gimenez drew 40 percent support in the poll, followed by 22 percent for Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado and 4 percent for political newcomer Alfred Santamaría. The mayor would need 50 percent-plus-1 in the Aug. 30 election to avoid a November run-off.

Gimenez would have to draw support among Democrats, particularly among African Americans, where his support is weakest. While 54 percent of all voters approve of Gimenez's handling of the job, that number falls to 40 percent among African Americans.

"While only slightly underwater there, his more fragile level of support amongst African Americans is a theme that continued throughout this data set," Ryan Tyson, AIF's director of political operations, wrote in a memo to members. He said several members had asked for a survey of the Miami-Dade race.

The AIF poll of 600 likely voters was conducted May 21-25. It was an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points. Another survey conducted earlier this month by Democratic firm Bendixen & Amandi International found Gimenez ahead by 10 points among likely voters.

A plurality of Democrats -- 41 percent -- remain undecided in the race. Among African Americans, the number is even higher, 51 percent. Gimenez's favorability rating is -13 percentage points among undecided voters of all stripes, with 23 percent holding a positive view of the mayor and 35 percent a negative one.

Those numbers could cause trouble for Gimenez if he's pushed to a November run-off, where the electorate will be more liberal and include more infrequent voters. The poll show the mayor is most liked by reliable voters, especially Cuban Americans like the mayor himself, who cast ballots in the last two primary elections.

"It appears many Democrats make up the undecided vote and will not be happy with any of these choices," Tyson wrote (Regalado and Santamaría are also registered Republicans). "However, it would seem that roughly a third of the undecideds are truly persuadable and within [Gimenez's] reach."

Gimenez has stirred controversy among some African Americans with his plan to rebuild the Liberty Square housing project. He's also tried to steer clear of partisan wrath by staying out of the likely presidential match-up between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The poll showed Gimenez with a net favorable rating of 23 percentage points. Regalado's is 18 percent, but 52 percent of respondents had no opinion or had never heard of her. Santamaría's name ID is even lower: 85 percent didn't know him.

One area where poll respondents sided with Gimenez was in his successful push to legalize ride-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft: 75 percent agreed with the decision.

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