Capitol Alert

California’s race for governor tightens in latest poll

Antonio Villaraigosa is closing the gap with fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom in the California governor’s race, according to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll.

PPIC’s statewide survey has Newsom, the lieutenant governor, at 23 percent and Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor, at 21 percent – a virtual tie. The nonprofit organization’s poll out Dec. 1 found similar results, with Newsom leading Villaraigosa by 5 percentage points, 23 percent to 18 percent.

Other public and private surveys, however, have shown more distance between the leading candidates ahead of the June primary. UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, in late December, had Newsom up by nine points, 26 percent to 17 percent. In November, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll had the race at 31 percent to 21 percent.

In Wednesday’s PPIC poll, Republican businessman John Cox was in third place at 9 percent; Democratic Treasurer John Chiang, 8 percent; Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen, 7 percent; Democratic former state schools chief Delaine Eastin, 5 percent; and Republican former Congressman Doug Ose, 3 percent.

Under the state’s primary election system, the top two candidates, irrespective of their parties, meet in a November rematch. Republican operatives and party leaders have expressed increasing concerns that a split between their three candidates will help a Democrat advance, potentially depressing turnout in the down-ballot midterm races. At a Republican debate Tuesday night, Allen, Cox and Ose all indicated they would remain in the contest, with Allen suggesting that both Cox and Ose should drop out.

In the PPIC poll, Newsom and Villaraigosa are trailed by Chiang, 9 percent, Allen, 8 percent, Cox, 7 percent, Democrat Delaine Eastin, 4 percent and Ose, 3 percent. Nearly a quarter of the likely voters remained undecided.

Newsom and Villaraigosa are tied at 32 percent among Democrats while Allen led Cox, 24 percent to 20 percent, among the Republicans. Meantime, majorities said they have no opinion or have not heard of Chiang, Eastin, Allen, Cox or Ose.

Villaraigosa’s campaign touted the poll as validation for his traveling to “every corner of the state” to share a message focused on expanding economic opportunity.

“Millions of Californians are working harder than ever before and yet, still falling behind,” spokesman Luis Vizcaino said. “While individual polls go up and down, the growth in all aspects of our campaign shows Californians are responding to Mayor Villaraigosa’s call for greater economic opportunity and equality.”

The poll also looked at other races, and found:

▪ U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein far ahead of fellow Democrat Kevin de León, 46 percent to 17 percent, with a third of likely voters undecided.

▪ California likely voters split, (47 percent in favor, and 48 percent opposed) on whether they favor repealing the recent increase to the gas tax.

▪ Voters divided (46 percent in favor, 43 percent opposed), over the idea of easing the limits on commercial property taxes imposed by 1978’s Proposition 13.

▪ Immigration as the most important issue for the governor and state Legislature to work on in Jerry Brown’s last year.

▪ Nearly half of Californians say they are closely following news about sexual harassment and misconduct in the Legislature.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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