Attorney General Kamala Harris maintains a solid lead among the top candidates, but nearly a majority of California voters still have no preference less than two months before June’s primary.
This is the second time a senate race in California has deployed the open primary system — in which the two top vote-getters square off in November’s general election, regardless of party — and far from emboldening downtrodden Republican voters, it seems to have left them scratching their heads.
“Most Californians aren’t even aware that a Senate race is going on,” said Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. “The presidential race is eclipsing everything else. Plus it’s not a case where Republicans have a really strong shot at winning in November.”
Taken together, combined support for the two Democrats leading in the poll — Harris (27 percent) and U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (14 percent) — amounts to 41 percent, still 7 percent shy of the voters who have no preference or are undecided. The numbers have hardly budged since January.
The nonpartisan Field Poll was conducted from March 24 to April 3, among 633 respondents representing a likely cross-section of voters. Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, was so aghast at the level of lassitude revealed by the poll he didn’t even mention Harris or Sanchez in the headline of his news release.
“It’s almost unprecedented for a top-of-the-ticket election,” DiCamillo said, referring to the lack of interest in a race that could help determine whether Democrats regain control of the Senate. “For whatever reason — maybe information is being drowned out by the presidential race — there is very little discussion, very little news coverage, very little advertising that has to do with California’s U.S. Senate race. And that is extremely unusual. Very unusual. I want to be very clear about that. This is not normal.”
None of the three leading Republican contenders polled higher than the 5 percent garnered by businessman Ron Unz, an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1994, who has pushed for English-only teaching in the state’s schools. Unz only entered the race last month, but he still tops former Republican Party chairs Tom Del Beccaro (4 percent) and Duf Sundheim (2 percent).