With a four month head start, Democrat Kamala Harris is an unsurprising early favorite to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, though few voters have yet to tune into the race, according to a new poll.
The Field Poll also shows Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez with the potential to secure a second-place finish in the primary and advance to a rematch with Harris in the November general election. The poll was conducted before Sanchez officially joined the contest.
“I think the odds are about even if Sanchez stays in it and runs a credible race,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. Still, he added there’s no guarantee of that given her rocky start in less than a week on the campaign trail.
Sanchez, a 10-term congresswoman from Santa Ana, officially launched her campaign Thursday, following a confusing on-again, off-again, period that played out in the media. After barnstorming caucus meetings at the party’s annual convention this weekend in Anaheim, she was forced to use her floor speech Sunday to apologize for an impolitic gesture mocking American Indians.
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In the poll, 58 percent of likely voters do not offer a preference. Harris, the state attorney general, receives 19 percent of first-choice votes. Sanchez comes in second with 8 percent of likely voter preference.
Republicans Rocky Chávez, an assemblyman from Oceanside, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro, were the first-place selections of 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Democrats hold a 15 percentage point advantage in registered voters so the race will be a difficult task for any Republican.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles (3 percent), and Republican Duf Sundheim (1 percent) rounded out the field.
“In a low-awareness election like this one is starting out to be, it’s basically crying out for introductions to who the candidates are and where they stand, and that benefits the candidates with the greatest amount of resources,” DiCamillo added.
Harris finished the first quarter with $2.2 million on hand, leading the rest of the field. Sanchez finished the last period with about $540,000 on hand.
Looking at voters’ second-choice candidates, Harris leads with 22 percent followed by Sanchez at 14 percent. Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and John Garamendi were included as possible entries, but their first-choice supporters were reallocated when Schiff officially withdrew and pollsters determined Garamendi is unlikely to seek the Senate seat. The Walnut Grove congressman has told The Sacramento Bee he is still considering a bid.
Regional and ethnic differences among voters could already be emerging. Harris does well with whites and African Americans and Sanchez with Latinos. They are virtually tied with Asian American voters. Harris, a former district attorney of San Francisco, shows strongly in the Bay Area. Sanchez’s support is highest in her native Southern California.