CF News 13: Poll adds fuel to fire between Ashton, Lamar

From Central Florida News 13 featuring my analysis.


Incumbent State Attorney Lawson Lamar faced challenger Jeff Ashton in a forum today, and Lamar’s campaign is taking issue with a new poll from the Ashton campaign on where voters stand.

Ashton’s campaign released the results of a poll Tuesday that claimed he had a 57 percent favorability rating over Lamar’s 46 percent favorability rating.

The Kitchens Group in Maitland conducted the poll, surveying 400 people over the internet with a margin of error of plus/minus 4.9 percent. Also, none of the documents released about the poll included a full list of questions, or says how it solicited its responses, expect that the interviews were conducted using “The Kitchens Group’s Internet Voter Panel.”

In the release, the Kitchens group founder Jim Kitchens says the poll shows Lamar is vulnerable. “Jeff Ashton is certainly a candidate who can win this race.”

News 13′s political analyst Frank Torres questions the validity of the poll, since he says it was purchased by the Ashton campaign.

“Yeah, this taints the poll. It’s a purchased poll,” Torres said. “You look for polls from neutral sources that can give a clear picture about what the race is really all about.”

The Lamar campaign released a statement Tuesday, calling the poll a campaign stunt to “kick start a campaign that has virtually no local support”:

“There is significant doubt about the validity of polling performed by using the internet as theses polls perform poorly with elderly and low-income populations who are not as wired as other demographics.”

Both Lamar and Ashton are running in the August 31 Democratic primary for the state attorney’s office, which serves Orange and Osceola counties. Lamar has been state attorney since 1988.

What has raised the profile on this race is the Casey Anthony trial. Ashton, who served under Lamar until July, was a prosecutor on the trial.

“Both attorneys will look you straight in the eye and say ‘This isn’t about Casey Anthony. This isn’t about Casey Anthony. This is about efficiency with the office’,” Torres said. “And it’s simply not true because these two names are linked to this case, probably for the rest of their lives, definitely in this race moving forward.”

Curiously, the Casey Anthony trial also figured heavily in the Ashton campaign’s poll. “Voters feel by a 4-to-1 margin that Lamar’s decision to seek the death penalty in the Casey Anthony trial contributed to her acquittal,” the release said.

Lamar’s campaign accuses Ashton of using his celebrity as a Casey Anthony prosecutor to raise image.

“We fully expect our opponent’s name recognition to be high. After all, he is a celebrity, concerned with Hollywood, book deals and grabbing headlines, while Lawson Lamar has worked quietly for decades keeping Central Florida safe while avoiding personal publicity to a minimum,” the Lamar campaign said.

The winner of the primary between Lamar and Ashton will go on to face Republican defense lawyer Joerg Jaeger in the November election for state attorney.

State attorney Lawson Lamar- left and former prosecutor and state attorney candidate Jeff Ashton -right