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Poll makes case for Latino U.S. Senate candidate

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.

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Buchanan calls poll ‘definitive,’ foe says it’s ‘BS’

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan is touting a poll she commissioned that shows she’s better-known and likelier to win the 7th State Senate District special election than the three other declared candidates.

Buchanan, 62, of Alamo, has twice the name recognition of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, 54, D-Concord, among 7th District likely voters – 65 percent to Bonilla’s 33 percent – according to the poll from GarinHartYang Research Group. Only 17 percent know Walnut Creek Republican Mark Meuser, 40, and only 8 percent know Concord Democrat Terry Kremin, 50.

The poll found 31 percent of likely voters feel positively toward Buchanan while 14 percent feel so about Bonilla, 5 percent about Meuser and 2 percent about Kremin. For context, the poll found 60 percent feel positively about Gov. Jerry Brown; 34 percent feel positively about Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who just vacated the seat this special election will fill; 26 percent feel positively about Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, who just succeeded Buchanan in the 16th Assembly District; and 16 percent feel positively about Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought the Assembly seat and has said he’s mulling this senate contest.

In a four-way contest, 29 percent of likely voters preferred Buchanan, 12 percent preferred Bonilla, 26 percent preferred Meuser and 3 percent preferred Kremin, while 26 percent said they’re undecided and 4 percent said they supported someone else or nobody.

And presented with a hypothetical head-to-head, 38 percent said they would support Buchanan and 17 percent said they would support Bonilla, with 35 percent undecided and 10 percent say supported neither or somebody else. Buchanan’s poll surveyed 401 likely voters this past Monday, Jan. 12, and has a 4.9-percentage-point margin of error.

Buchanan blasted out an email to supporters Friday morning linking to the poll memo and calling the results “definitive… I am in an excellent place to win in this special election.”

Susan BonillaBut Bonilla campaign consultant Josh Pulliam said Buchanan is pulling a page from a losing playbook. When she ran in the 2009 special primary election to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Buchanan touted an early poll’s results as evidence that she was in first place and best-positioned to win; she finished fourth, despite spending $1.2 million.

“Considering Buchanan entered the race touting her slogan of running a ‘positively’ positive campaign, it’s sad that just a few weeks later Buchanan has already broken that campaign promise by attacking the viability of her opponents,” Pulliam said Friday. “But as we have seen from Buchanan’s past tactics, her polling memo is positively BS.”

The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, with the special primary on Tuesday, March 17. Bonilla and Buchanan will go head-to-head at a candidates’ forum next Monday, Jan. 19 hosted by the TriValley Democratic Club. Doors open for the event, at the IBEW 595 union hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin, at 7 p.m.; the club’s business meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.; and the candidates’ forum should start by 8 p.m.

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Tom Steyer looks good in his own Senate 2016 poll

Hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer said Tuesday he’s considering whether to run for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, but apparently he’s been mulling this for a while: A polling memo shows he commissioned a survey on his chances in mid-December.

And those chances aren’t bad, the poll found (which, no doubt, is why I was able to obtain the memo).

“Our December survey shows that Tom Steyer is clearly a strong contender to win the seat now open due to the announced retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer,” according to the memo from the firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. “Steyer’s profile, background and the storyline of his political and charitable involvement combine to form an attractive foundation for a candidacy.”

CincinnatusLest anyone worry how healthy an opinion Steyer, 57, of San Francisco has of himself, the memo was addressed to “Team Cincinnatus” – presumably referring to the Roman statesman hailed as an icon of virtue, selflessness and humility after twice being chosen for, and then twice resigning, the mantle of dictator in order to protect the republic. Big sandals to fill, there.

The poll conducted from Dec. 18-22 asked 600 California registered Democrats and nonpartisan voters about their priorities; they named the environment – including climate change, the need for clean-energy jobs, and anti-pollution efforts – among the three top issues facing California’s next senator, along with education and income inequality. The poll also found:

    75 percent would be likely to support a candidate who led the fight to pass Proposition 39, the successful 2012 ballot measure that closed a corporate tax loopholes for out-of-state companies and set some of the revenue aside for schools and clean-energy construction jobs;
    79 percent would be likely to support a national leader in promoting new clean energy technologies;
    66 percent would be likely to support a candidate who “believes climate change is the biggest challenge of our times”;
    66 percent would be likely to support a successful businessman who understands how the global 21st Century economy works; and
    65 percent say they would be likely to support a candidate who has committed to giving away the majority of his personal wealth to help the next generation get a fair shake.

All of these questions were asked without any mention of Steyer’s name. Afterward, when respondents were read an actual description of Steyer, 75 percent said they would be likely to support him, including 41 percent who said “very likely.”

Tom Steyer“Much of the elements of this campaign are, of course, yet to be determined so soon after Senator Boxer’s announcement — particularly the precise make-up of the field, including Republicans since all candidates must attempt to qualify for the November general election by finishing in the top two,” the memo said. “What is clearly evident, however, is that unlike other wealthy and mainly self-funded candidates in the past, Tom Steyer possesses a very sound foundation among the voters in terms of the issues, and political and charitable activities that provide his motivation for running. That is a huge asset for him going forward.”

Read as: Voters won’t be quick to peg Steyer as a rich dilettante who’s trying to buy one of the state’s top political posts, like a certain someone whose name starts with “M” and ends with “eg Whitman.”

The memo also notes that depending on whether Republicans can field “a credible and financially resourced candidate” in June 2016’s top-two primary, California could wind up with two Democrats going head to head in that November’s general election. “In such a scenario, Tom Steyer’s profile can make him the best positioned candidate to have cross-over appeal, especially with non-partisan voters,” the memo concluded.

What does it all mean? Some context, after the jump…
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Poll: Brown, Props 1 & 2 look good; 45 & 46 lagging

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election and the ballot measures he supports are looking good, while voters aren’t sure about two other, more contentious measures, according to the Hoover Institution’s Golden State Poll.

The survey, administered by the survey research firm YouGov from Oct. 3-17, sampled 1,273 California adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.65 percent for the full sample.

“The poll’s numbers reflect a California election that contains little in the way of political intrigue or public enthusiasm,” Hoover fellow Bill Whalen, a California politics expert who leads question development for the Golden State Poll, said in a news release. “However, there are signs of trouble on the horizon. The public isn’t sold on some contentious tax and social issues.”

Brown leads Republican challenger Neel Kashkari 48 percent to 31 percent among registered voters – a 17-point gap not unlike the average of four other recent polls. Yet Brown, seeking an unprecedented fourth term, doesn’t achieve majority support in this poll.

43 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election said strengthening California’s economy should be the governor’s top priority next year; 17 percent said balancing the state’s budget should be the top priority; 16 percent said improving the state’s public education system should be the top priority; 10 percent reducing the state’s long-term debt burden should take precedence; 7 percent said improving roads, bridges and public transportation is most important; and 6 percent said protecting the environment is most important.

Voters planning to cast ballots in this election are split on what to do with Proposition 30, Brown’s 2012 ballot measure that temporarily raised income taxes on the rich and increased sales taxes by a quarter-cent. The poll found 21 percent want it made permanent; 9 percent would extend it for six to 10 years beyond its scheduled expiration in 2018; 17 percent would extended it for one to five years; 17 percent would let it expire; and 29 percent would repeal it as soon as possible, while 8 percent weren’t sure.

Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond, is supported by 52 percent of voters planning to cast ballots in this election and opposed by 22 percent, with 26 percent unsure.

Proposition 2, to beef up the state budget’s “rainy day” reserve fund, is supported by 47 percent and opposed by 19 percent, with 34 percent unsure.

Proposition 45, to grant the insurance commissioner authority to reject unreasonable health insurance rate hikes, is supported by 42 percent and opposed by 30 percent, with 29 percent unsure.

Proposition 46 – to raise the cap on non-economic medical malpractice lawsuit damages, require drug testing of doctors, and require use of a state database to avoid “doctor shopping” by drug abusers – is supported by 34 percent and opposed by 37 percent, with 30 percent unsure.

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Field Poll: Voters unhappier with own lawmakers

California voters are growing less satisfied with their own members of Congress, a new poll shows – and that might be bad news for Democrats.

The Field Poll finds 40 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job their own House member is doing in Washington, while 36 percent approve. That’s a pronounced change from April, when 44 percent approved and 33 percent disapproved.

Polls often show voters are ready to “throw the bums out” of Congress – except for their own “bum,” whom they hold in somewhat higher esteem. But this drop in support for voters’ own House members means incumbents in close races could be at greater risk.

That spells trouble for Democrats, who hold all three of the California House seats deemed “toss ups” by the widely respected Cook Political Report. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, faces former GOP Congressman Doug Ose in the 7th Congressional District; Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, is opposed by Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell in the 26th Congressional District; and Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, is challenged by Republican Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman, in the 52nd Congressional District.

The numbers also probably aren’t welcomed by Bay Area’s only endangered incumbent, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who’s challenged by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official from Fremont.

California voters’ overall view of Congress’ job performance remains predictably dismal, with only 13 percent approving and 75 percent disapproving. That’s similar to Field Polls dating back to early 2010, and is shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

When likely voters statewide are asked which party’s candidate they would likely support in November’s House elections, 46 percent say the Democrat while 38 percent say the Republican and 16 percent are undecided.

The Field Poll’s survey of 1,280 registered voters, conducted Aug. 14 through Aug. 28, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The sample of 467 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

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New poll: Brown leads Kashkari by 25 points

A new poll finds Gov. Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by a much wider gap than previously reported.

The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll found that if the election were held today, Brown would beat Kashkari 57 percent to 32 percent – a significantly larger lead than the 16 points that the Field Poll reported last week.

The USC/LAT poll found Brown has the support of 82 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of no-party-preference voters, and 18 percent of Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats support Kashkari.

The poll also found Brown’s job-approval rating at 57 percent, slightly higher than his 54 percent job approval rating in May and a double-digit increase from his 44 percent approval rating in April 2011, soon after he took office.

“Incumbents are defeated when the challenger gives the voters a compelling reason to make a change, and Kashkari simply hasn’t been able to attract enough attention to make that case to voters,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and executive director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

“California is an uphill challenge for any Republican running statewide. California is an uphill challenge for any underfunded candidate running statewide,” he said. “But California is a very, very steep hill to climb for an underfunded Republican candidate running for statewide office.”

Much of Brown’s lead might have to do with name recognition. When Californians were asked if they knew the name of the current governor of California, 78 percent of voters correctly identified Brown, with 20 percent unsure. Only 20 percent of voters identified Kashkari as the Republican candidate for governor, with 79 percent unsure of the candidate’s name.

Californians are feeling better about the state’s future, though most still aren’t happy, the poll found – 37 percent now say the state is on the “right track” while 48 percent disagree, but that’s a vast improvement from November 2010, when only 15 percent felt it was on the right track and 77 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

The USC/LAT poll also found:

    The Legislature has a 43 percent disapproval rating and 38 percent approval, showing a slight increase from May 2014 when voters reported a 40 percent disapproval rating and a 41 percent approval.
    Proposition 1 — a $7.5 billion bond measure for water infrastructure projects — is backed by 66 percent of voters, a considerably higher level of support than the 52 percent figure reported by the Field Poll last week. But when provided with more information – including that the measure would increase state bond repayment costs but also providing savings to water projects for local governments – support dropped to 57 percent.
    The number of voters who see California’s historic drought as a crisis is on the rise, up 11 percentage points from a May 2014 poll.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll of 1,507 voters was conducted Sept. 2 through Sept. 8 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.