Having a Latino run to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016 would energize California’s pro-Democrat Latino electorate, according to a poll commissioned by the Golden States’s Latino lawmakers.
“One of the goals of the Latino Caucus is to develop avenues that empower the Latino community all across the state of California,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, who chairs the California Latino Legislative Caucus, said in a news release. “This survey shows that a viable Latino candidate would generate enthusiasm and increase turnout among Latino voters, which would help Democrats across the board.”
The survey is meant to take air from the sails of Attorney General Kamala Harris, who so far is the only declared candidate in the race. The Latino lawmakers’ poll – conducted Jan. 27-29 by the Garin Hart Yang Research Group among 600 likely voters statewide – found Harris has a strong head start among Democrats.
“But her advantage over her potential opponents is far from overwhelming given that she has been on the statewide ballot TWICE since 2010,” the poll memo concluded. “Given the fluidity that is typical of primary elections and a constituency that has not voted in strong numbers but has the potential to be energized, there is real potential here for a credible Latino candidate.”
Harris has never taken any campaign for granted, campaign manager Brian Brokaw said Tuesday.
“She has won statewide office in California twice since 2010 by assembling a coalition of voters that represents the diversity of the largest state in the country, and that is exactly how she intends to win election to the U.S. Senate,” he said. “As the daughter of immigrants and a champion on so many of the issues facing California’s Latino population — homeowner protections, immigrants’ rights, environmental justice, combating gang crime, fighting elementary school truancy — she looks forward to once again earning the support of the state’s Latino population and representing all Californians in the Senate.”
The poll found that in a four-way hypothetical matchup, Republican Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin got 31 percent of the vote, Harris got 28 percent, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa got 18 percent, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, got 4 percent and 19 percent were undecided. Among Latinos considering that same field, Villaraigosa got 44 percent, Harris got 20 percent, Swearengin got 17 percent, Schiff got 5 percent and 14 percent were undecided.
But that matchup posits only one Latino candidate in the field, while several have expressed interest in running. The poll also found Villaraigosa has 66 percent name recognition while Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, has 46 percent, Secretary of State Alex Padilla has 41 percent and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, has 25 percent. Harris clocked in at 62 percent name recognition.
Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, another Latino caucus member, said this race has importance beyond the candidates themselves. “An exciting race can generate enthusiasm among voters that have not been energized in years. We need only look at the last election to see what happens when we had low excitement at the top of the ticket – we had record low-turnout.”
Sure, true. But that was a midterm election in which the governor’s race was a snooze. 2016 will be a presidential election, and while that might be a fait accompli in California – in the Democratic primary if Hillary Clinton has already run away with it in earlier states, and in the general given that California will go to whoever the Democratic nominee is – it undoubtedly will have a much bigger and more diverse turnout than 2014 no matter who’s running for Senate.
Side note for political nerds: Brokaw, Harris’ campaign manager, some years ago had worked for the now-defunct Acosta/Salazar media relations, campaign management and public affairs firm. Roger Salazar’s clients now include the California Latino Legislative Caucus.