Capitol Alert

Poll: Villaraigosa, Newsom on top early in race for governor

Antonio Villaraigosa
Antonio Villaraigosa AP

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom hold an early lead in voter support in the 2018 race for governor, according to a new poll.

The Field Poll, released Thursday, comes three years before the wide-open election to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown.

Forty-two percent of registered voters say they are inclined to vote for Villaraigosa, 1 percentage point higher than for Newsom. Eric Garcetti, the current mayor of Los Angeles, posts 36 percent support, while other potential candidates fall below 30 percent. Poll respondents could say they were inclined or not inclined to vote for as many candidates as they wanted.

The poll reflects geographic strongholds for Newsom in Northern California and Villaraigosa and Garcetti in Southern California, as well as Villaraigosa’s strength among Latino voters.

If the campaign evolves into a showdown between a Northern California and Southern California politician, poll director Mark DiCamillo said, “That would actually be an interesting test in an election to see if the candidates from the south, and from L.A. in particular, can bring out their base of supporters.”

With Brown terming out of office, the 2018 race is likely to attract a large field of high-profile Democrats. Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, announced his candidacy and started raising money earlier this year. Others mulling candidacies include Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and former state Controller Steve Westly, who are both expected to run.

Westly, a wealthy Silicon Valley investor who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006, fares poorly in the poll. Just 22 percent of voters say they are inclined to vote for him, 3 percentage points lower than for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican.

The prospect for any Republican gubernatorial candidate is dim in this heavily Democratic state.

Serenity Holden, a 37-year-old poll respondent from Visalia, said she typically doesn’t follow state races because, as a Republican, “I’m really kind of screwed.”

Yet even people who do follow statewide races may have a hard time looking so far ahead.

Linda Torres, a 67-year-old independent voter from Ceres, spoke favorably of Newsom but said that with three years to go, “I’m not thinking a lot about it.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders