The 241 voters in a straw poll at a Lakeland Chamber of Commerce public political gathering favored incumbents who are up for re-election, Republicans in partisan races (with one exception), and — as might be expected — Lakeland residents in legislative districts that span multiple counties.

The several hundred people attending Politics in the Park along the block of Lake Morton Drive in front of the Chamber building Tuesday night had the option of standing in line to vote in a straw poll conducted by the Polk County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Candidates for offices from Polk School Board to U.S. House of Representatives set up tables along Lake Morton Drive and chatted with voters at the event. It started at 6 p.m., late enough to avoid the rains that dampened parts of Lakeland in the previous hours.

During the last half of the two-hour event, each candidate were given two minutes to introduce themselves to the crowd from the front of the Chamber of Commerce Building. Some helped themselves to more time.

The straw poll was, by definition, not a scientific poll. The participants were attendees at the event, largely people who are actively engage in politics or support specific candidates on the Aug. 23 primary ballot or Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Photo gallery – Candidates who spoke at Politics in the Park and offices they are seeking. Click any image for a larger version:

At the end of the evening, Lakeland Chamber President and CEO Amy Wiggins announced which candidates received the most votes in each race. She did not reveal the overall number of votes.

Those with the most votes were:

  • Polk School Board, District 3: Sarah Fortney
  • Polk School Board, District 5: Kay Fields
  • Polk School Board, District 6: Justin Sharpless
  • Polk School Board, District 7: Lisa Miller
  • Polk County Judge, Group 8: Adam Patton
  • Polk County Commission, District 4: Martha Santiago
  • Florida House, District 50: Jennifer Canady
  • Florida House, District 51: Josie Tomkow
  • Florida Senate, District 12: Colleen Burton
  • Florida Senate, District 47: Ben Albritton
  • U.S. House, District 9: Darren Soto (the only Democrat favored in a partisan race)
  • U.S. House, District 11: Daniel Webster
  • U.S. House, District 15: Kelli Stargel
  • U.S. House, District 18: Scott Franklin
  • U.S. Senator: Marco Rubio
  • Florida Governor: Ron DeSantis
  • Florida Attorney General: Ashley Moody
  • Florida Agriculture Commissioner: Wilton Simpson
  • Florida Treasurer: Jimmy Patronis

The straw poll results align with the recommendations of Business Voice of Greater Lakeland, the Chamber of Commerce’s political arm. The group last month announced who it’s supporting for Polk School Board and Florida House races in districts touching Lakeland.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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