A well-known Democrat polling firm run by Steven Vancore released a survey this week that has Florida political observers scratching their heads and speculating that Democrat hijinx may be afoot. The poll asked GOP voters in Republican Congressman Ted Yoho‘s 3rd Congressional District which candidate they prefer as his replacement. Yoho officially announced his retirement earlier this month, keeping a campaign promise to only serve four terms in office.
But the survey by Vancore included the name of State Senator Keith Perry, and omitted the name of longtime Yoho staffer Kat Cammack, who announced her bid for the seat last week.
Perry has since told the Gainesville Sun he has no plans to run for the seat:
“People elected me to a four-year term and I feel obligated to serve it out,” Perry said. “It’s flattering that I have a lot of support, but you don’t run on that kind of thing. I made a commitment.”
A deeper dive into this particular rabbit hole strongly suggests State Senator Gary Farmer may have the most to gain from attempting to lure Perry into the race with the polling shenanigans. As Minority Leader for Florida Senate Democrats, Farmer is charged with helping pick up seats, like the one Perry now occupies in the State Senate. Indeed, flipping Perry’s Senate seat to the Democrat side would make for a nice pickup for Farmer in the 2020 election cycle, and luring Perry into a Congressional race would give Farmer a better chance to recruit a Democrat to take out any GOP newcomer looking to replace Perry.
The link between Farmer and Vancore, the pollster, is clear. Since 2018, the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which Farmer chairs, has spent at least $23,500 through Vancore’s firm for “media consulting,” and state records do not yet include spending for October, November or December of this year. The poll was conducted through Clearview, which is also run by Vancore and operates out of the same office space as VancoreJones Communications.
Vancore denies that Farmer or anyone else paid for the poll. The Gainesville Sun quoted him claiming he did the poll “just out of curiosity,” and he claims he covered the costs out of his own pocket:
“I wondered if Keith Perry would dominate the field,” Vancore said. “I have to be honest, I’m a little stunned at the strength of the numbers for him. He’s lapping the field.”
It seems more than just odd that a Democrat would wonder such things about a random Republican in a strong Republican congressional district, and odder still that he’d be willing to spend money to investigate the hunch. Why would any Democrat care? But getting the poll done for free would be convenient for Farmer, who is under fire for lackluster fundraising last quarter, and it might help lure Perry away from his incumbent Senate seat.
There is also the matter of a related website called “RunKeithRun.com.” The site’s registered owner is anonymous, and the only informational page is a screenshot of the poll by Vancore. Clicking it takes the reader to a news story about the poll at FloridaPolitics.com.
Taken together, we have a poll that ignores Kat Cammack’s entry into the race for CD3, but includes Perry who has made it clear he is not running. Then there is the shady website urging Perry to get into the Congressional race, with its only information being a link to the poll, and the person behind the poll is a well-known Democrat operative with deep ties to Farmer, who claims he did it all, pro bono, to satisfy his curiosity.