New poll shows transit tax in Hillsborough winning

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If one believes that money has a major impact on the outcome of elections, then the transit tax exemplifies that theory writ large.

The pro-referendum forces, led by the group Moving Hillsborough Forward, has raised more than $1.2 million, while the opponents, led locally by the Tea Party infused group No Tax For Trax, has spent around $17,000, a disparity mentioned by Sharon Calvert, a member of that coalition.

Calvert says her group is doing "everything possible, from posting yard signs, to word of mouth," to get their message out. She says that she remains confident that the measure will go down on November 2.

No Tax For Trax's John Hendrix believes that the local media is in the bag for the measure. "I will observe that local newspapers seem to have taken on their self-assigned role as cheerleaders and salesmen as opposed to reporting on the story," he said Saturday afternoon. "We've had a steady drumbeat of op-eds that they published (in support of the measure), while a number out of op-eds that have been discarded."

Nonetheless, he is also confident that the initiative will go down to defeat.

Voting by absentee ballot is going on right now. Early voting at the polls begins on Monday, October 18.

The first high-profile public poll on the 1 cent sales tax for transportation in Hillsborough County was published Saturday morning, and it shows the controversial measure winning, 51%-39%, with 10% still undecided.

The poll was was produced for the St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9. and conducted by American Directions Group, a research company out of Washington D.C., which has a local office in Lakeland.

Broken down, the survey shows solid support among the black community (where the promise of enhanced bus service has been a strong selling point),with 69% of African-Americans in support. 57% of Democrats support it, 56% independents, and 42% of Republicans.

But it shouldn't be overlooked that the poll shows the referendum barely passing with the required 50% majority, with enough undecideds to still make it difficult to predict.

John Hendrix with No Tax For Tracks says that in a traditional election between two candidates, the undecideds usually vote against the incumbent come Election Day, and he's hoping that same theory holds with the transit tax.

"My opinion is that the more informed people are as to fiscal irresponsibilities of the light rail measure, the less likely they'll be inclined to support it," he says.

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