Poll: Newsom, Bonta ahead in California primary election

Voters are likely to stick to their partisan preferences in two of California’s most consequential primaries, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom and prosecutors. General Rob Bonta had an easy time in the June 7 election, according to a poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

Newsom’s massive lead suggests not only that he will swamp the field of 25 contenders in next week’s gubernatorial primary, but also that neither candidate has garnered enough support at this point to pose a credible threat in a one-on-one – Match represent in the general elections on November 8th.

According to the poll, half of likely voters support Newsom — including 83% of Democrats and 46% of voters registered as having “no party preference.”

In the race for California’s best cop, Bonta is similarly well-placed to defeat each of his four opponents, with 46% of likely voters saying they support him. Newsom appointed Bonta to the job last year and he is now running his first national campaign with an offer for a full four-year term.

“The overall picture is quite encouraging for incumbents,” said Eric Schickler, co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies.

Dan Newman, a Newsom policy adviser, called the poll’s results “a tremendous vote of confidence in his leadership at a very challenging time.”

Democratic US Senator Alex Padilla, who was appointed by Newsom less than two years ago, is also entering the primary with a clear lead. According to the poll, he has 44% of likely voters backing him, followed by conservative Republican attorney Mark Meuser with 14% support.

For the record:

7:43 am Jun 3, 2022An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Christy Wilson as a Republican political adviser. Wilson is a political adviser but said she is not a registered Republican.

Political adviser Christy Wilson said Newsom “broadly won his reelection when he defeated the recall” in September and, as a result, no notable challengers have emerged to challenge his bid for reelection in 2022. The lack of drama at California’s major races has sapped voter enthusiasm, she said, which could stifle turnout.

“Most people I spoke to said there was just nothing compelling about them on the ballot,” Wilson said.

The Republican Party’s dismal track record in statewide races in California for nearly two decades has inspired homelessness advocate Michael Shellenberger to believe he may have a chance of knocking out Newsom as an independent candidate. Shellenberger blames Newsom and other California Democratic leaders for spinning the state, saying they are responsible for the homeless crisis, rising violent crime and skyrocketing home prices.

Shellenberger, who has raised about $1 million for his campaign, ran for governor as a Democrat in 2018 and received less than 1% of the votes. The UC Berkeley-LA Times poll found he could do better this time, with 5% of likely voters saying they prefer him.

Interestingly, the poll found that Shellenberger’s strongest support came from Republicans. Among respondents, 10% of Republicans said they support Shellenberger, compared to 8% of independent voters and 1% of Democrats. However, Schickler said Shellenberger must also appeal to Democratic voters to have a chance as they outnumber Republicans by nearly 2 to 1.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Rob Bonta after the announcement of Bonta's appointment as Attorney General

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (left) bumps elbows with California Rep. Rob Bonta after announcing Bonta’s appointment as Attorney General in 2021.

(Noah Berger/Associated Press)

“There are Democrats who don’t love Newsom. if [Shellenberger] could have gotten quite a lot of those votes, maybe he’ll become some kind of focal point for the opposition,” Schickler said.

Shellenberger is behind the top Republican in the race, said Bieber Senator Brian Dahle, who had the support of 10% of respondents — including 26% Republicans and 8% independents.

While not a huge margin, Dahle’s support from the California Republican Party and his long history of winning elections in Northern California will likely find more support if voters who said they were now undecided ultimately cast their ballots, Schickler said. Almost one in four Republicans said they were undecided.

“As a Republican, he would have an advantage over courting those votes,” Schickler said.

Newsom has previously attacked Dahle by name in political ads, targeting the Republican’s opposition to abortion rights and saying he “sides with” former President Trump. These attacks may have helped improve the senator’s naming identity across California and suggest Newsom may prefer to face a Republican rather than an independent like Shellenberger in November.

Dahle said he’s confident he’ll finish in the top two in the gubernatorial primary, which would put him and Newsom in a duel in November. He believes Californians have lost confidence in Newsom’s ability to address homelessness, rising violent crime and rising gas and housing costs that are making the state unaffordable.

“We understand that California is a blue state. There’s no doubt about it, but there’s also a lot of frustration,” said Dahle. “There is a clear choice between different philosophies and policies.”

The poll found that none of the other candidates in the gubernatorial race broke the 3 percent mark for voter support. Lawyer and military officer Shawn Collins and advertising executive Anthony Trimino, both Orange County Republicans, were supported by 3% of likely voters; Republican business consultant Jenny Rae Le Roux and Republican businessman Major Williams were both supported by 2%. Almost 16% of voters said they were undecided.

The pattern is repeated in the race for Attorney General.

Bonta’s comfortable lead over his top three challengers contradicts arguments that voters are desperate for a new attorney general to address California’s crime problems and oppose a criminal justice reform movement championed by the attorney general during his time in the legislature used.

According to the Probable Voters Poll, 77 percent of Democrats support Bonta, along with 38 percent of non-party voters. A majority of every racial group surveyed — White, Latino, Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native American — also said they supported Bonta.

“I think the results just underscore what we’re seeing broadly,” said Nathan Click, spokesman for Bonta, of the poll results.

Eric Early, a Los Angeles attorney who is considered the ultra-conservative candidate in the running, had 16% of the likely votes and a fellow Republican and former US Assistant Attorney. General Nathan Hochman had 12%.

Thirty-nine percent of likely Republican voters backed Early, with most of his support coming from those who said they were “strongly conservative.” Hochman, viewed more as an establishment candidate and backed by California’s Republican Party, garnered 30% support from likely GOP voters.

Schickler said Republicans tended to favor the more conservative candidate on the ballot, which may explain why Early has fared well among likely voters so far. But while that could help him get out of the primary, it may not be enough to win November’s election.

Bonta supporters see an opportunity in holding a primary election in November. They recently produced radio spots portraying Early as a “true conservative” and “big Trump supporter” while announcing his support for broad gun control and his opposition to abortion. In California’s top-two primary system, this effort could help send Early to the general election with the idea that the Democrats’ voter registration advantage would allow Bonta to win against a staunch conservative more easily.

Unsurprisingly for some political insiders, Sacramento County Dist. atty Anne Marie Schubert’s candidacy as an unconventional independent candidate has so far failed to resonate with voters. The career attorney and former Republican is best known for her work in arresting and convicting the Golden State Killer and other serial killers and rapists in California, a record she hopes will resonate with a wide spectrum of Californians.

But the poll shows their message hasn’t gone beyond partisan politics so far. Only 6% of likely voters said they support Schubert, including 4% of Democrats and Republicans and 11% of Independents.

“It speaks to the challenges faced by a candidate with no party preference,” Schickler said. “Republican voters want to vote for Republican candidates just like Democratic voters want to vote for Democratic candidates. So they’re basically relying on the pool of voters with no party bias, and a lot of those people are less interested in politics and less engaged. Some of them are quite informed, but often not that informed.”

Rob Stutzman, Schubert’s campaign strategist, said their focus over the next few days is to encourage participation from the independents they have relied on to form the majority of their electoral base. Stutzman also saw opportunity in the 19% of likely voters who said they had not yet decided on a candidate for attorney general, including 24% of non-party independents.

“We believe that Anne Marie has a very solid basis to be an independent candidate. We would really like to see NPP voter turnout increase over the next few days,” Stutzman said. “I think there’s going to be a mess between the two Republicans and her. We’re still optimistic… that we’ll be there on Tuesday night.”

The poll was conducted online May 24-31 in English and Spanish among 5,210 California-registered voters, of whom 3,438 were considered likely to vote in the June primary. The margin of error is estimated to be about 2 percentage points in either direction. The full question text and description of the survey methodology can be found on the Berkeley IGS website.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-03/2022-california-primary-election-gavin-newsom-rob-bonta-poll Poll: Newsom, Bonta ahead in California primary election

Alley Einstein

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