New Independent Poll Shows California Special Is Wide Open

Posted August 13, 2009 at 1:30pm

California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D) has a solid lead over his fellow Democrats in the Sept. 1 special primary to replace former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), according to a new independent poll released Thursday, but the race is still wide open and is all but certainly headed to a November general election.

In the automated poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for KPIX-TV in San Francisco, Garamendi was preferred by 26 percent of the voters, followed by the leading Republican in the all-party primary, attorney David Harmer, with 18 percent. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D) had 15 percent, followed by state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D) at 12 percent and Iraq War veteran Anthony Woods (D) at 5 percent.

The poll of 552 likely voters was taken Monday and Tuesday and had a 4.3-point margin of error.

Under California law, all candidates appear together on the same special election primary ballot, and if no one clears 50 percent, the top vote-getters from each party advance to a general election. In Tauscher’s liberal East Bay district, the Democratic nominee is almost certain to become the next Member of Congress.

While Garamendi’s lead is significant, it is no doubt partially fueled by the fact that he is far and away the best-known candidate, based on his statewide office and more than 30 years in politics. But the SurveyUSA pollsters don’t count out DeSaulnier and Buchanan.

“Because turnout in a stand-alone special primary election is so difficult to predict, each of these three Democrats has a chance to advance,— they wrote.

DeSaulnier has racked up scores of endorsements from unions, environmental groups and grass-roots Democratic organizations, and Buchanan, the lone woman among the major candidates, recently was endorsed by the political powerhouse EMILY’s List.

According to the poll, however, Garamendi was favored by 29 percent of the women surveyed, compared with 17 percent for Buchanan.

The seat became vacant when Tauscher took a high-ranking job at the State Department.