Kamala Harris has fortified her first-place standing in Tuesday’s primary for the right to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, while a splintering of lesser-known Republicans is vaulting fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez into the fall runoff, according to the latest Field Poll.
Harris, the state attorney general and leader in each of the four previous polls, draws support from 30 percent of likely primary voters, with Sanchez, a veteran congresswoman, in second at 14 percent. Nearly a third of voters are undecided, a figure that has remained high since last year.
Nine percent of likely voters favor other candidates, while none of the Republicans receive more than 4 percent support. All signs point to a Harris-Sanchez runoff come Tuesday, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll.
“If this were like going to the racetrack, you could bet on the win and the place and feel pretty comfortable,” DiCamillo said. The show bet is far less obvious, though, as he points out, “that’s pretty academic, because it doesn’t matter.”
Under the state’s election system the top-two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the fall runoff.
On the Republican end, Phil Wyman, a former state lawmaker, Tom Del Beccaro, a former California Republican Party chairman, and Greg Conlon, an attorney and accountant, are tied at 4 percent. Following at 3 percent are ex-state GOP Chairman Duf Sundheim and bilingual education critic Ron Unz.
Despite nominal outside spending to boost Sundheim, and late radio ads by the candidate, none of the Republicans have done much in the way of paid media. Dropping out of contention could further dampen confidence in the party, which holds no statewide offices and is struggling for relevance in the Legislature.
Harris has distanced herself from the field a bit since April, when she led Sanchez by 13 percentage points.
DiCamillo said the poll demonstrates Republicans may be willing to skip the Senate race entirely – in the primary, as well as in an all-Democratic fall election. In the hypothetical scenario, Harris leads Sanchez, 40 percent to 26 percent. Thirty percent of Republicans volunteer they wouldn’t vote for either Democrat.
“Leaving a ballot blank is an option, and that seems to be presenting itself to a far greater extent than what we have ever seen,” he said.