JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New polling numbers released in the Republican primary races for state attorney and public defender show challengers pulling ahead significantly over the two incumbents.
University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory data showed Melissa Nelson leading incumbent Angela Corey in the state attorney's race. Meanwhile, Charles Cofer is ahead of incumbent Matt Shirk in the public defender's race.
The poll included over 600 likely voters in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.
Race for state attorney
The poll of likely Republican primary voters shows Nelson garnering 52 percent of voters with Corey trailing at 20 percent, and Wes White garnered 7 percent of the vote, with 21 percent of people being undecided.
This is a significant change from a June poll, when Nelson led Corey, 34 to 24 percent, respectively. Researchers said likely causes for the increase in Nelson support could be due to endorsements, positive exposure and campaign strategy.
"Nelson has widespread support across all three counties," said Dr. Michael Binder, faculty director of the institute. "The lead Nelson has opened in the last month is very surprising. Incumbents are typically tough to beat, especially ones with name recognition."
Early voting has been in progress since Aug. 15, and of the people being surveyed, 13 percent said they already voted. Of that 13 percent, more than half said they voted for Nelson while only about a quarter of people said Corey.
There is no Democrat in the race, and the winner of the three-way Republican primary faces only a write-in candidate in November.
White said he doesn't put much stock in the poll.
"The poll was taken by the same group that predicted Alvin Brown's re-election for mayor and Ken Jefferson's election as sheriff; so no one should accord it a high degree of confidence," White said in a statement. "I encourage all voters to vote for themselves, without regard to this poll, and I am confident that they will re-write the history of northeast Florida."
Corey had no comment on the poll results, and Nelson's campaign said her message seems to be resonating.
Race for public defender
The UNF poll showed Republican challenger Cofer leading with 43 percent while incumbent Shirk trails with 21 percent.
"Even though Cofer is ahead by 20-plus points, there is still a great deal of indecision in the electorate for this race," said Binder. "This race has not attracted the same level of attention that the state attorney's race has gotten and, as such, has been overshadowed."
Binder said that among those who have already voted early, Cofer leads by more than 30 percent. He said those who were previously unsure may now be making the choice to vote for Cofer.
As with the state attorney's race, there is no Democrat running, and the Republican winner faces only a write-in candidate in November.
Early voting continues through Sunday, and voters can cast absentee ballots Downtown on Monday or Tuesday, if they can't get to their regular precinct on Election Day.