With Gov. Jerry Brown in a commanding position to be re-elected in November and with transparency and integrity in office thrust into the news by scandal in Sacramento, the most interesting statewide contest – one in which a Republican has at least a shot at winning a constitutional office — is the race for Secretary of State.
It’s the office that propelled Brown himself to statewide prominence as a Watergate era reformer – an office that oversees elections and corporations – sort of Sacramento’s Minister of Fairness.
And right now, before any real campaign has been launched, Republican Pete Person is the leading contender in the latest Field Poll.
Peterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at PepperdineUniversity, is pulling 30% of likely voters compared to state Sen. Alex Padilla of the San Fernando Valley at 17% in the Field Poll from March 18-April 5.
Others Sucking Wind The rest of the candidates trail far behind, with the Green Party’s David Curtis at 5%, non-partisan Dan Schnur at 4% and Democrat Derek Cressman at 3%. The differences among them are statistically insignificant.
A whopping 41% of likely voters are undecided about the race and even the best-known candidate – Padilla – is still unknown to 54% of the voters.
In California’s two-step election process, the top two candidates in the June “primary” election, regardless of party, face off in the November general election.
Before Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was arrested and charged with gun running and bribery, the standings in the survey were Peterson at 27%, Padilla 10% and Yee 8%. After Yee dropped out of the Secretary of State’s race, Peterson picked up 3% and Padilla added 7% in the Field Poll being conducted at the time.
How Non-Partisan Plays One of the most intriguing aspects of the SOS race is the presence of Schnur, the former Republican operative (and friend of many reporters) who later headed the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and re-registered as a “no party preference” voter. At Calbuzz’s urging, the Field Poll — as an academic exercise — tested whether Schnur is helped or hindered by running as a non-partisan instead of as a Republican.
What the survey found was that when Schnur is listed as a non-partisan, about eight in 10 likely voters have no opinion about him – he’s the most unknown of all the candidates. Among those who have an opinion about him, 11% are favorable and 10% are unfavorable.
When Schnur is identified as a Republican, the number of voters with no opinion drops to 67%, his favorable goes up 4 points to 15% but his unfavorable rises by 8 points to 18%.
In other words, his favorable-unfavorable ration is +1% as a non-partisan and it’s -3% as a Republican. More people express an opinion about Schnur, political science suggests, because they react to the party label.
It’s an experiment worth undertaking since party registrations are declining and no non-partisan candidate has ever been elected to a statewide office in California.
Sadly for Schnur, he’s so utterly unknown to voters, that he’s got a long way to go to break into the top two finishers in June, as do Curtis and Cressman. About seven in 10 voters don’t know who they are. With turnout expected to decline in June and November as Jonathan Brown predicts, it will be especially difficult for those at the back of the pack to break through.
Party registration remains the most powerful predictor of voters’ preferences.
Peterson, the Republican, has a favorable-unfavorable among likely voters of 18-19%. Among Republican it’s 32-8% favorable, but among Democrats it’s 11-30% unfavorable and among non-partisans it’s 9-18% unfavorable.
Padilla, on the other hand, has a 35-9% favorable rating among Democrats and a 7-44% unfavorable among Republicans. Where he has and edge on Peterson is among non-partisans, who rate him 22-18% favorable.
Leland We Hardly Knew Yee As if to prove the point that a significant portion of voters are ignorant, the Field Poll also reported that before his arrest and withdrawl from the SOS race, Leland Yee’s favorable was 24-20% favorable and after his arrest it was 15-34% unfavorable. In other words, 15% of the voters still had a favorable opinion about a state senator charged with gun running and bribery.
It’s a great country.
The Field Poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters by land line and cell phone. 504 were identified as likely voters – 212 interviewed before Yee’s arrest and 292 after. The margin of error among voters interviewed after Yee’s arrest was +/- 5.5 points; before his arrest it was +/- 6.5 points. Calbuzz is not permitted to subscribe to the Field Poll because some mainstream media clients are afraid of the competition so Calbuzz obtains the survey from sources.