Gavin New­som con­tin­ues to lead in gover­nor’s race

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Tracy Seipel and Ra­mona Gi­war­gis Staff writ­ers

BERKE­LEY » It’s still nine months away, but Lt. Gov. Gavin New­som con­tin­ues to lead the pack of con­tenders in next June’s “top two” pri­mary elec­tion for gover­nor, ac­cord­ing to a UC Berke­ley poll re­leased Fri­day.

Re­sults show that the Demo­crat, a for­mer San Fran­cisco mayor, is fa­vored by 26 per­cent of likely vot­ers.

Three other can­di­dates vy­ing for sec­ond place are trail­ing far be­hind, in­clud­ing for­mer Los An­ge­les Mayor An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa, a Demo­crat who gar­nered only 10 per­cent of likely vot­ers in the poll, which was con­ducted by UC Berke­ley’s In­sti­tute of Gov­ern­men­tal Stud­ies.

Two Repub­li­cans, San Diego busi­ness­man John Cox and Or­ange County Assem­bly­man Travis Allen, posted sim­i­lar num­bers: Cox was fa­vored by 11 per­cent of likely vot­ers, Allen by 9 per­cent.

The num­ber of likely vot­ers who fa­vor New­som changed lit­tle from a Berke­ley IGS poll in May, when it was 22 per­cent.

But it’s still early and most Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers aren’t pay­ing much at­ten­tion to the race, said Larry Ger­ston, a pro­fes­sor

emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal science at San Jose State Uni­ver­sity.

“New­som still leads, but his lead is not nearly enough to sep­a­rate him from ev­ery­body else if you are think­ing about the top two’’ vote-get­ters who will ad­vance to the Novem­ber elec­tion re­gard­less of party. “New­som is only at 26 per­cent, which is only a quar­ter of the elec­torate,’’ Ger­ston said.

And as promis­ing as the early num­bers may be for New­som, the poll shows that a third of likely vot­ers are still un­de­cided in the race, which has a crowded field of six ma­jor can­di­dates that also in­cludes state Trea­surer John Chi­ang and for­mer state Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent De­laine Eastin, both Democrats.

Chi­ang placed fifth, at­tract­ing 7 per­cent of likely vot­ers, while Eastin came in last with 4 per­cent.

“There’s a heck­uva lot of un­de­cided,’’ said Melissa Michel­son, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at Menlo Col­lege in Ather­ton. “This re­ally still could go to any­body.’’

New­som’s early polling lead and huge fundrais­ing ad­van­tage — he raised $5.3 mil­lion dur­ing the first six months of 2017 — are big fac­tors, Michel­son said.

“But I don’t see that he’s got a lock,’’ she said. “Gavin’s pretty pop­u­lar up here where we all know him from his days in San Fran­cisco.’’

Yet once more peo­ple — es­pe­cially eth­nic vot­ers — be­gin pay­ing at­ten­tion to Vil­laraigosa, the ex-mayor of the state’s most pop­u­lous city, they may well ask, “Do we want the white guy, or some­body who maybe has a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of com­mu­ni­ties of color?’’ she said.

That’s not to say that New­som doesn’t have a good record with eth­nic vot­ers, Michel­son said. But when peo­ple vote, she said, “they want some­one who looks like them.’’

To poll di­rec­tor Mark DiCamillo, the most in­ter­est­ing part of the sur­vey were the is­sues it iden­ti­fied “that are not only im­por­tant over­all to the elec­torate, but are im­por­tant to the sup­port­ers of each of the can­di­dates,’’ he said.

New­som’s sup­port­ers ranked their top priorities as health care poli­cies (80 per­cent), fol­lowed by cli­mate change (71 per­cent), en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies (67 per­cent) and the econ­omy and jobs (also 67 per­cent).

Ex­cept for health care poli­cies (at 76 per­cent), Vil­laraigosa sup­port­ers’ con­cerns are much dif­fer­ent: Econ­omy and jobs ranked high­est (at 83 per­cent), fol­lowed by health care, race re­la­tions (64 per­cent), im­mi­gra­tion and poli­cies af­fect­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants (60 per­cent), and hous­ing (also 60 per­cent).

By con­trast, vot­ers back­ing ei­ther of the two Repub­li­can can­di­dates, Cox and Allen, of­fered a third set of is­sue priorities. Among three of their top four is­sues: crime and law en­force­ment, im­mi­gra­tion and poli­cies af­fect­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, and state spend­ing poli­cies.

No­tably, DiCamillo said, “health care is a big is­sue with Democrats, both New­som and Vil­laraigosa. But it does not emerge as an is­sue for Repub­li­cans.’’

The poll shows that New­som’s sup­port is strong­est among Democrats, African-Amer­i­cans, North­ern Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers, white vot­ers and those with house­hold in­comes of $100,000 or more.

Vil­laraigosa, mean­while, leads among Lati­nos and vot­ers born out­side the U. S. He’s also com­pet­i­tive with New­som in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and among vot­ers who make less than $40,000 a year.

Both he and Chi­ang, who on Thurs­day were in Moun­tain View at­tend­ing an event hosted by the Sil­i­con Val­ley Lead­er­ship Group, brushed aside the poll re­sults.

“Where are we to­day?’’ Vil­laraigosa asked a Bay Area News Group re­porter who showed him the poll. “Let’s see. Septem­ber of 2017, and the pri­mary’s in June. We’re a long way from the pri­mary and a long way from the gen­eral.”

He called the polls “a snap­shot in time,” adding that he is knock­ing on doors, cam­paign­ing up and down the state for votes.

“It is what it is,’’ the for­mer mayor said of the poll. “Take it with a grain of salt.”

Chi­ang said the num­bers will change once can­di­dates start to spend a lot of money.

While the race may be about name iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to­day — which he ac­knowl­edged will be a “par­ticu- lar chal­lenge” for him, “we know we have a strong and re­sound­ing mes­sage about who’s ac­tu­ally been there do­ing the work to im­prove the qual­ity of life for all Cal­i­for­ni­ans,” Chi­ang said.

“We’re go­ing to tar­get the vot­ers and talk about the work we’ve done in re­gards to hous­ing, mak­ing sure we build a sound and strong fi­nan­cial fu­ture for all Cal­i­for­ni­ans and how we im­prove the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem — those are ar­eas that we can dis­tin­guish our­selves,” he said.

The sur­vey was con­ducted on­line in English and Span­ish by YouGov, an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing re­search firm, from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. The poll of 1,000 likely vot­ers has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or mi­nus 4 per­cent­age points for the can­di­dates. The mar­gin is 6 per­cent­age points for the is­sues iden­ti­fied in the gover­nor’s race.

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