ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As they face off in what polls, including our exclusive SurveyUSA poll, indicate is a competitive race for Florida attorney general, Ashley Moody and Sean Shaw are employing contrasting messages to woo decidedly different blocs of voters.

    • Spectrum News presents a debate between Ashley Moody and Sean Shaw, LIVE tonight at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News 13/Bay News 9
  • Shaw leads Moody 44 to 43 percent in latest Decision 2018 poll
  • Moderates, independents largely undecided
  • DECISION 2018: Latest News | Voting Guide
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Moody, the Republican nominee, is an ex-prosecutor who also served as a Tampa-area judge. In television ads and campaign events, she has sought to play up her experience in the legal system as an asset sorely missing from politically-driven Tallahassee.

“You’re going to have to be working with federal and state law enforcement officers and prosecutors to move the ball on skyrocketing elder abuse, human trafficking – we’re third in the nation – mental health, how it intersects with court systems. This is a tough job, and to expect a politician to come in with no experience, no idea where to begin, it’s not feasible,” Moody said in an interview.

Her message is a not-so-subtle swipe at her Democratic opponent, Shaw, who was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2016. A Tampa lawyer specializing in insurance matters, Shaw served as the state’s insurance consumer advocate under former Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

Shaw’s campaign is seizing on the consumer protection power of the attorney general’s office. He has argued that Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi has not been aggressive enough in shielding Floridians from corporate greed.

Shaw is also promising to end Bondi’s legal challenges of the Affordable Care Act.

And, in a move that has drawn the ire of Florida’s powerful gun lobby, Shaw is pledging to create a gun violence working group if elected. He supports overhauling the state’s troubled concealed weapon permit background check program and has called for passing legislation to ban assault-style weapons.

“I want to be clear: inaction is not an option,” Shaw said at a Capitol press conference. “The lives of Floridians cannot continue to be collateral damage in the political battles occurring here in this building. I will not tolerate it. Neither will the voters.”

For the past 16 years, Florida voters have opted for Republican control of the attorney general’s office. Races for the post have rarely been competitive affairs, but 2018 appears to be different.

This year, voters will choose between two radically different candidates engaged in a neck-and-neck campaign.

Poll results

As Moody and Shaw prepare to face each other tonight, a new Decision 2018 Exclusive Poll shows the race for attorney general is too close to call.

The SurveyUSA online poll of 665 likely and actual voters shows Sean Shaw ahead of Ashley Moody by just 1 point – 44 percent to 43 percent. Twelve percent of voters polled are undecided.


By Ideology

Shaw leads among moderate voters, 44 percent to 37 percent for Moody. But Moody leads among independent voters 46 percent to 31 percent. In both cases, undecided voters still make up a large chunk – 17 percent among moderates, 19 percent among independents.


By Top Issue

The top issue among all Florida voters polled is the economy at 24 percent. For Moody voters, immigration and national security are the top issues. For Shaw voters, the presidency and the environment are the top issues.

Among undecided voters, the top issues are education and the economy.

By region

The poll also shows Moody leads in all regions of the state except in the southeast, where Shaw has an overwhelming lead. The region where the race is the closest? Central Florida, where Moody leads Shaw 45 percent to 42 percent.

A big number of undecided voters are out there, however:

  • Northwest: 19 percent
  • Northeast: 19 percent
  • Central Florida: 10 percent
  • Southwest: 7 percent
  • Southeast: 14 percent