Two prominent Broward politicians have a big hurdle to surmount if they have any hope of winning the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014 – virtually no one elsewhere in Florida knows anything about them.
That's the finding of a Quinnipiac Poll of Florida voters conducted earlier this month. It didn't explicitly assess them as candidates, instead measuring their favorability ratings. Nan Rich has announced she's running for the Democratic nomination and Jack Seiler is thinking about it.
Even though he's a former state representative who rose to become one of the top Democrats in the Florida House of Representatives and is serving his second term as mayor of Fort Lauderdale, 93 percent of those polled said they hadn't heard enough about Seiler to form an opinion.
Among the rest, he had a favorable rating of 4 percent and an unfavorable rating of 3.
Rich, of Weston, is a former state representative and state senator who served two years as the Senate Democratic leader until term limits forced her from office in November. Still, 90 percent of respondents hadn't heard enough about her to form an opinion. She had a 6 percent favorable and 4 percent unfavorable rating.
Kevin Hill, a political scientist at Florida International University, summed up the challenge for Rich and Seiler: "Obviously nobody knows who they are."
Candidates can start from near zero and become known enough to win, Hill said, but that requires money. "The problem with using money to build name recognition is it's a Catch-22. You need money to build name recognition, but if nobody knows you they aren't going to give you any money."
Seiler said Friday the poll is irrelevant to the decision he plans to make next year about whether he'll run.
"It's so early and I have never run on a statewide ballot before. I guess the nice thing is I would get to define myself to most of the public," he said. "If I am going to run statewide it is a tremendous amount of expense and a tremendous amount of work to get your name out.
"I'm going to make my decision based upon whether I think I can make Florida a better place. If it's an uphill battle, it'll be an uphill battle. But I'm going to base that on my own factors," Seiler said.
Rich said the poll won't affect her effort. She said she's always been planning to begin more active campaigning throughout the state early in 2013, and has a Panhandle campaign swing scheduled for January.
"I'm out there building an infrastructure. It'll begin to show in the poll numbers as the year progresses," she said.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,261 registered voters from Dec. 11-17. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Also faring poorly: potential governor hopefuls Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.
Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned independent U.S. Senate candidate and possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate, had the strongest showing. He was viewed favorably by 47 percent and unfavorably by 33 percent. Among Democrats, he had a 65 percent favorable and 10 percent unfavorable rating.
Rich said Crist has "been a governor [and] run multiple times statewide, so his name recognition is obviously going to be a lot higher than anybody else's."
Alex Sink, the unsuccessful 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was viewed favorably by 27 percent, unfavorably by 14 percent. Hill said the 57 percent who hadn't heard enough to form an opinion about Sink was the biggest surprise of the poll.
Mitch Ceasar, chairman of the Broward Democratic Party, said it would take time for Rich or Seiler to overcome the name recognition deficit, so they need to start raising money and campaigning soon.
Ceasar said there's another issue for the two Broward politicians. If both ultimately run for the same ofice, Rich and Seiler could cut into each other's base. He said the same could happen with Crist and Sink, both of whom come from the Tampa Bay area.
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