2 Cabinet races up for grabs

For attorney general and CFO, the votes are far from a sure thing.

Published October 28, 2006

When it comes to the races for attorney general and chief financial officer, it ain't over 'til it's over, a new poll suggests.

With just over a week left before the Nov. 7 election, a quarter of likely voters remain undecided about who they want to hire as the state's top lawyer and top accountant, according to a new St. Petersburg Times poll of registered voters.

That number is even higher - 40 percent - among voters who identify themselves as independents.

And pollsters say it's all those undecideds who may make the 5- and 6-point lead now enjoyed by Democrats Walter "Skip" Campbell and Alex Sink over Republicans Bill McCollum and Tom Lee insignificant when it comes to predicting outcome.

Still, Florida's long-suffering Democrats can boast that two of its Cabinet candidates are in position to compete for high office late in the election season. Democrats consider Campbell and Sink to be their best shots at reclaiming a statewide office.

But it won't be easy, pollsters warn.

"These races are unformed now because of the large number of undecideds. It will take more polling or we'll have to wait for the results" to predict who wins, said pollster Rob Schroth.

"I think this poll shows it's a straight party-line situation that can only be remedied by a lot of money. Independents will be torn - or they'll just skip it on the ballot," Schroth said.

The statewide telephone survey of 800 voters was conducted for the St. Petersburg Times by Schroth/Eldon & Associates, a firm that does most of its work for Democratic candidates, and the Polling Co., which works primarily with Republicans, from Sunday to Wednesday.

The margin of error is 3.5 percent.

The poll shows Sink leading Lee 41 percent to 35 percent, with 24 percent undecided. It also shows Campbell leading McCollum 41 percent to 36 percent with 23 percent undecided.

Part of the problem in both races, pollsters Schroth and Kellyanne Conway of the Polling Co. agree, is that voters don't have a good sense of what the offices of chief financial officer and attorney general do or how it affects them.


The CFO candidates, Republican Lee and Democrat Sink, have both devoted a significant chunk of their campaign literature and Web site real estate to explaining the role of the CFO.

Florida's chief financial officer runs the Department of Financial Services, which includes bookkeeping and check writing, funeral home and cemetery regulation, insurance agent monitoring and fire marshal duties, as well as some insurance regulation, which the CFO shares with the governor and other members of the state Cabinet.

Hillsborough retiree Tom McCabe, an independent, hasn't made up his mind yet for CFO but said he'll look for the most convincing fiscal conservative: "Someone who doesn't spend too much money," said McCabe, 79.

Attorney general

Of the two attorney general candidates, Democrat Campbell and Republican McCollum, only McCollum has any statewide name recognition.

With concerns about crime and drugs again running high in suburbia, Conway's advice to the candidates is to focus on the police aspects of the job and ensure voters that they'll be safe.

Retired mortgage banker and fellow independent Sharon Kinkead said she's not familiar with McCollum or Campbell, but she's now beginning her research and has her own advice for the candidates: If you want her vote, don't go negative.

"There's not any decent information out there. It's just 'Vote for me - I hate him,' " said Kinkead, 64, of Port Orange.