James P. Bradley may have been more surprised than anyone else about his standing in a recent U.S. Senate poll.
"I was shocked," Bradley said in a phone interview last week.
Bradley rose above a pool of other little-known Republicans to earn support from 10 percent of likely voters in the UC Berkeley IGS poll. The 60-year-old Laguna Niguel resident and first-time candidate for any office fell one point behind state Sen. Kevin de León in the battle for second place and a spot on the November ballot. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein continues to lead the pack.
Bradley, a believer in climate change who opposes California's "sanctuary state" movement, said he registered as a Republican for the first time in March after voting without a party preference for years. He said the Democratic Party was moving too left to be an option.
Bradley said he spoke out against de León's Senate Bill 54 at a council meeting in Dana Point, but that's the biggest audience he's addressed so far. His campaign war chest is empty.
He didn't know why voters chose him.
"I was under the radar," Bradley said. "I’m looking at what’s right for our citizens. I think that’s what the voters need in office."
But Paul Mitchell, vice president of the bi-partisan voter data firm Political Data, has an explanation.
The list of candidates in the IGS poll didn't rotate — each poll respondent saw the names of 32 candidates in the same order, Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who provided the polling data for the survey, points out that Bradley was the first GOP candidate in the ballot order with "an Anglo-sounding name" and respectable-sounding designation — chief financial officer. Bradley was listed second behind Republican Arun K. Bhumitra.
"When people have no information about certain candidates, there is a little bit of negative racially polarized voting," Mitchell said. "Meaning when you look at white voters, they might be more drawn to voting for a name that doesn’t sound as ethnic."
That won't be as much of a factor in June when the ballot order rotates, Mitchell said. He called the poll an outlier.
"On election day with a ballot and with the normal rotation, all these Republicans are going to split up that vote because none of them have resources to break through," Mitchell said. "The idea that one of them is going to be able to get into the runoff would be unexpected."
Mark DiCamillo, the poll director, agreed that Bradley's name and designation could have given him a leg up.
"We'll randomize the order next time and see if it changes things," DiCamillo said.
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Editor's Note: This post was updated at 10:35 a.m. April 30 to reflect comments from DiCamillo.