Kamala Harris isn't California voters' first choice for Senate

condoleeza-rice-face.jpgThe Field Poll conducted the first public statewide poll to ask about the race to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer and the results are interesting. In a simple ask of whether a likely voter is inclined or not inclined to vote for 18 different potential candidates, the top choice was a Republican: Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. secretary of state now a professor at Stanford. She got an "inclined to vote for" score of 49 percent (and a "not inclined" of 39 percent.) Rice, by the way, has not shown any interest in running. Next was Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running. Her numbers were 46 inclined and 37 not. Then there is some space before you get down to the tier that includes Democrats Rep. Loretta Sanchez (39-42), Secretary of State Alex Padilla (38-32), Reps. John Garamendi (36-43) and Jackie Speier (36-42) — and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (35-47.) All come with significant "no opinion" percentages, but notice the challenge there for Villaraigosa. Statewide, more likely voters start with a negative impression, or at least are not inclined to vote for him based on what they already know.

Among just the likely Democratic voters, Harris leads Villaraigosa 74 percent to 57 percent on the inclined side. “He’s really just one of five that I would call ‘Democrats in the second tier,’ ” pollster Mark DiCamillo said. More from John Myers of KQED.

While the poll will undoubtedly propel advisers to Kamala Harris to declare her candidacy strong, it also reinforces at least one finding in two private polls released over the last couple of weeks: Latino voters start out very interested in a Latino Democratic candidate.

The Field Poll finds 60 percent of Latinos surveyed like Villaraigosa as a candidate, an 8-point lead over Harris….

The poll is, like all such surveys, only a snapshot in time. And because the race is hardly even a race yet — we’re still a year away from when anyone can formally file the paperwork for candidacy — its shelf life is likely even shorter than most. The real question is probably whether it causes anyone other than Harris, who’s off and running with endorsements and fundraisers, to take a second look at throwing a hat into the ring.

In the Sacramento Bee version, DiCamillo said “Voters would be open to considering a broad range of Democrats. At this point, (Villaraigosa) is just one of a number of pretty well-known Democrats that score about the same.” Here are 352 pages of cross-tabs, compliments of the Bee.

Recent coverage of Villaraigosa includes the LA Times noting all of his post-mayor business deals to make money (on top of his $97,000 pension) and how they complicate a race, the Fresno Bee on Central Valley Latino Democrats waiting to see what he does, and Ruben Navarette Jr. writing in the Daily Beast that Latinos are seething over the lining up of other Democrats behind Harris.

On Tuesday, Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chávez of Oceanside announced he’s forming an exploratory committee. In the poll, Chavez clocked in at 20 percent inclined, 47 percent not inclined and a third of likely voters had no opinion on him.

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