CAL BUZZ--Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, both Democrats, are virtually tied in the race for governor of California, but Villaraigosa has a secret weapon: a 4-1 lead among Latino voters who, if they turn out in big numbers, could swing the election.
Lt. Gov. Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, has 23% of the likely voters, compared to 21% for Villaraigosa, former Assembly Speaker and mayor of Los Angeles, according to the most recent survey by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California. But among Latino likely voters, Villaraigosa leads 48-13%. (The survey’s margin of error for likely voters was +/- 4 percentage points.)
The survey marked a slight pick-up by Villaraigosa since PPIC’s November survey, in which Newsom led 23-18%.
No other candidate for governor is drawing even 10% of the vote in the PPIC poll, suggesting that in the preliminary June election, Democrats Newsom and Villaraigosa will finish in the top two and then battle it out in November. Republicans, if they vote, will have to choose one Democrat or the other.
As of now, Democrats divide evenly between Prince Gavin and Tony V at 32%; Newsom leads among independents 24-17%, and Republicans favor fellow GOP members Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen (24%) and Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox (20%). Among Republicans, 6% are for Villaraigosa and 4% are for Newsom. But 35% of Republicans are undecided, suggesting a large cache of voters available in November, if GOP voters bother to turn out.
No contest for Senate The race for U.S. Senate is far more lopsided, with incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein leading state Senate president pro tem Kevin de Leon 46-17%, with 33% undecided — most of them Republicans with no candidate since both Feinstein and de Leon are Democrats.
Not only does de Leon have scant support — 17%! — he’s not even the favorite among Latinos, who back Feinstein over him 47-29%. And while he’s been trying to attack the senior senator from the left – as too weak on President Trump (although she actually has a Trump nickname, “Sneaky Dianne,” and he doesn’t) – she leads among liberals 62-19% and among Democrats 67-19%.
Feinstein’s margin would doubtless be greater except that 65% — nearly seven in 10 Republicans – are undecided, having no GOP candidate of substance to back in the race.
In the governor’s race, voters are about evenly split by gender: men lean 22-21% for Villaraigosa and women favor Newsom 24-20%. Delaine Eastin, the former Superintendent of Public Instruction and the only woman in the race, draws just 6% of women voters.
It’s unclear who has the advantage among women yet – years ago, Villaraigosa cheated on his wife while Newsom had an affair with the wife of his best friend and campaign manager.
Newsom leads 45-12% in the San Francisco Bay Area while Villaraigosa leads 32-13% in Los Angeles and 22-13% in the Inland Empire. Newsom has liberals 40-23% while Villaraigosa leads among moderate 24-18% and conservatives 15-6%.
Newsom holds a huge financial advantage right now with just under $17 million in the bank compared to less than $6 million each for Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang. To become truly competitive, Villaraigosa will have to raise funds at a much faster pace than he has to date.
(Jerry Roberts is a California journalist who writes, blogs and hosts a TV talk show about politics, policy and media. Phil Trounstine is the former political editor of the San Jose Mercury News, former communications director for California Gov. Gray Davis and was the founder and director of the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University. This piece appeared in CalBuzz.