Capitol Alert

‘Undecided/other’ has big lead in California’s U.S. Senate poll

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., responds to questions during a Congressional Hispanic Caucus news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Thirty-four candidates will compete for California's open U.S. Senate seat, a mostly unknown group that opens the way for surprises and could boost the chances of Democratic Sanchez in June's primary election. The Orange County congresswoman is vying to get into a two-person, November showdown with front-runner and fellow Democrat, attorney general Kamala Harris.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., responds to questions during a Congressional Hispanic Caucus news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Thirty-four candidates will compete for California's open U.S. Senate seat, a mostly unknown group that opens the way for surprises and could boost the chances of Democratic Sanchez in June's primary election. The Orange County congresswoman is vying to get into a two-person, November showdown with front-runner and fellow Democrat, attorney general Kamala Harris. AP

Californians have the rare opportunity to vote for a new U.S. senator in two months – but nearly half of likely voters still haven’t settled on a candidate, according to the latest Field Poll.

Some 48 percent remain undecided or don’t prefer any of the five best-known candidates appearing on the June 7 presidential primary ballot. That large bloc has budged little since January, when it stood at 45 percent, and last May, at 61 percent.

“For a U.S. Senate race it has been extremely quiet,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. “It seems like we’re sleepwalking to Election Day.”

Among the decided voters, Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris leads Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Orange, 27 percent to 14 percent.

The wide-open race to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer features a massive 35-candidate field, including 12 Republicans, eight Democrats, 11 others who decline to provide a party preference and four affiliated with other parties.

Only about one in four voters is able to provide a favorable or unfavorable rating for the three best-known Republicans in the poll – former state Republican Party chairmen Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim, and businessman Ron Unz.

Overall, Unz has 5 percent support, with Del Beccaro at 4 percent and Sundheim at 2 percent.

 

Field asked the undecided voters whether they are likely to back a Republican or Democrat in the primary, and nearly twice as many are inclined to vote for a Republican (29 percent) as a Democrat (16 percent).

“Early deciders appear to be heavily Democratic,” DiCamillo said. “Republicans are just not tuned in yet.”

Under the state’s primary system, the top two candidates, even if they are from the same party, advance to the runoff in November. DiCamillo said that based on every public poll, including three measures by Field, Harris should make it to November.

DiCamillo said it remains to be seen whether any of the Republicans can muster the money and support to overtake Sanchez and make the November general election.

Billy Aidnik, 77 of Lincoln, last registered with the Democratic Party, but said he’s “really down” on the organization and its candidates.

“They want to give everything away. Why work?” asked Aidnik, a retired construction worker. “I don’t really vote for someone as much as I vote against” others.

Aidnik said that leaves him with one of the 12 Republicans, none of whom he’s familiar with. “You don’t hear too much about them,” he said. “If they don’t publicize too much, it’s kind of hard to find out about them.”

He’ll do some online reading, he said, check out the voter pamphlet.

Then, he’ll vote, probably for “whichever one (makes) the most sense to me at the time.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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