Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Schools chief poll shows tight race between Torlakson, Tuck

Democrats are in a comfortable position to once again win every statewide office this November, according to a new Field Poll, the first to survey voters on their opinions in the seven down-ballot races. Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, controller, treasurer and insurance commissioner are leading their Republican opponents by an average of almost 16 percentage points in a survey of likely voters.

In the closest match-up, for secretary of state, Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla leads Republican think tank director Pete Peterson by seven points, 43 percent to 36 percent. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, long considered by many to be the Republican candidate with the best shot of winning statewide office this year, trails Democratic Board of Equalization member Betty Yee by 14 points, 32 percent to 46 percent.

There appears to a close race brewing for the nonpartisan superintendent of public instruction office, however, where former schools executive Marshall Tuck has edged ahead of incumbent Tom Torlakson, 31 percent to 28 percent. More than 40 percent of likely voters remain undecided, and Tuck’s lead is within the poll’s margin of error, but the tight results suggest a contentious fall campaign to come in this costly, ideologically charged race.

Christopher Cadelago has more in his story from today’s paper. Here are the statistical tabulations prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert, and the publicly released results from the poll.

VIDEO: Dan Walters plays art critic for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newly-revealed gubernatorial portrait.

HIGH AND DRY: Despite calls from Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce water use by 20 percent amid a historic drought, the State Water Resources Control Board was disappointed to discover earlier this summer that California actually used 1 percent more water in May than the year before. With voluntary conservation measures not proving enough, the board implemented stricter emergency regulations, including fines for wasteful watering of lawns and mandatory monthly updates from water districts. The first reports for June and July, which could provide insight into whether these conservation efforts are having an impact on state water use, will be presented during the board’s meeting, 9 a.m. at the Cal/EPA Headquarters on I Street.

THE LOCO-MOTION: In July, a state appellate court cleared the way for the sale of bonds for California’s controversial high-speed rail project, overturning a lower-court ruling. At issue is whether the long-delayed project has substantially changed from the one that voters approved through a ballot measure in 2008. Now the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plan to ask the California Supreme Court to take up the case, arguing that the train bonds violate legal and constitutional requirements. They will hold a press conference at 10th Street and Capitol Mall at 1:30 p.m. to discuss their appeal.

UNDERNEATH IT ALL: Due to severe surface water shortages, farmers and other property owners have increasingly turned to pumping water from underground – a phenomenon that led lawmakers to pass historic groundwater regulation legislation last month. There is growing concern that aquifers are being drained at an unsustainable rate, with many wells falling to their lowest point in a century and land in the Central Valley measurably sinking as a result. The Groundwater Resources Association of California will host a symposium to explore the technical challenges and financial impacts of that land subsidence, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the UC Davis Conference Center.

AS TIME GOES BY: California, you’re still looking good for 164. Today in 1850, the Golden State was the 31st to be admitted to the Union, and the California State Capitol Museum Volunteer Association will celebrate with cake and ice cream, a banjo band and color guard at 11 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, who turns 61 today.