Poll: Republican gubernatorial candidates rank 2nd and 3rd behind Democrat Newsom

kevin-faulconerGood news for California Republicans: In a field of nine candidates for the 2018 gubernatorial race, they have two of the top three names, according to a poll released Tuesday.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Ashley Swearengin, the termed-out mayor of Fresno, placed just behind Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a poll of registered voters taken prior to last week’s presidential election, conducted by The Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

Newsom drew 23 percent to Faulconer’s 16 percent and Swearengin’s 11 percent, with six prominent Democrats trailing in the single digits. Although anything can change in politics, Faulconer said early this year that he won’t run for governor, and Tim Clark, a political consultant to Swearengin, told CalWatchdog on Tuesday he didn’t “expect her to run.”

Why it matters

Having been shut out of the U.S. Senate race after the June primary, thanks in part to the state’s relatively new system where the top two candidates advance regardless of party, Republicans will need to field a strong candidate at the top of the ticket in 2018 to help with fundraising and turnout for down ballot races and to show they can still compete in statewide elections.

In addition to legislative races, where Republicans will either be fighting off a Democratic supermajority by the narrowest of margins or trying to add a little bit of a buffer — the few races from last week that the Democratic supermajority hinges on have not yet been decided as the votes are still being counted — the 2018 gubernatorial election will elect statewide officers.

CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte told CalWatchdog on Tuesday that the party was still focused on the outcome of last week’s election, but added the party was beginning to turn to 2018.

“I believe we will have strong candidates for a number of statewide offices,” Brulte said.

Challenges for Republicans

Both parties have struggled with a decline in voter registration for years, although the trend has been much more severe for Republicans, dropping from 36.4 percent of the electorate in 1996 to 26 percent late last month. Democrats in that time declined from 47.9 percent to 44.9 percent, but enjoyed a surge in registration over this campaign cycle that led to a slight uptick.

Whichever Republican candidates decide to jump into the race, they will be starting way behind Newsom and state Treasurer John Chiang, who have both been running and fundraising for awhile. As of September, Newsom had $6.3 million in his campaign account, while Chiang had $2.2 million as of August.

Both Faulconer and Swearengin benefited heavily in the poll from party identification — both dropped to single digits when polled on just name ID alone. But it’s still very early in the race, said John J. Pitney, Jr., a Roy P. Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

“These results reflect name recognition and partisan identification more than serious evaluation of the candidates,” Pitney said. “The good news for Republicans is that, although Faulconer and Swearengin are not running ahead, they have a chance of making the top two. The bad news is that the Democrats will be able to run well-funded campaigns.”

Money plays the odds 

Pitney pointed to the 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate, Neel Kashkari, who struggled with fundraising despite having contacts throughout the business and financial community from his time as an investment banker and top Treasury Department official.

In 2014, Kashkari raised only slightly more than Newsom has now two years out, largely due to being seen as not having a strong shot of winning (although he was running against a popular incumbent, Gov. Jerry Brown).

“Look at Kashkari,” Pitney said. “He had extensive contacts in the business/financial community, but could not fill his warchest because nobody thought he could win.”

Other candidates

Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and Delaine Eastin, the former state superintendent of public instruction, have both announced their intentions to run. Eastin was not included in Tuesday’s poll, while Villaraigosa drew 6 percent. Chiang was near the bottom at 2 percent.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Are Republicans on Right Path to Take Back Governor’s Office in 2018?

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Republicans will have a serious, competitive candidate for governor in 2018, Republican consultant Kevin Spillane told a conference sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California last week. Spillane was a member of a panel that discussed California’s Changing Electorate.

Spillane’s certainty that Republicans will field a top candidate was summed up in one name – and that was not the name of any prospective candidate. The consultant said that wealthy Republican donor Charles Munger will make an effort to see that a strong Republican candidate is in the field.

Munger’s name has been floated in political circles from time to time as a possible candidate for high office but Munger has dismissed the notion.

When pressed which Republican might be that competitive candidate, Spillane mentioned first San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer. He also suggested that Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin and former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner could fit the role.

The distant gubernatorial race was also evident in CJAC’s choice of the luncheon keynote speaker. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced his intention to run for the office. Newsom agreed that the discussion about the 2018 governor’s race has already gone mainstream even before the 2016 presidential election has been contested.

Other notes from the panel discussion:

Democratic Assembly consultant and former labor staffer Charu Khopkar said that labor was concerned with the Top-Two primary proposal because organized labor would have to spend much more money engaging in the Top-Two contests picking favorites among same party candidates. He admitted that the prediction has come true.

While the Top-Two was designed to select more moderate candidates, Political Data’s numbers guru, Paul Mitchell, challenged the idea that the Top-Two has had great effect except in a couple of isolated instances. He also argued that because Californians seem to self-select where they live in communities with pockets of like-minded liberals or conservatives, that has blunted the effect of redistricting reforms to select more moderate candidates. However, he suggested that the extension of term limits would have a greater effect on changing the nature of the legislature.

Spillane said the Republican caucus has become more moderate because it “caught up with political reality.” He said Republicans are on the right path, choosing appropriate candidates for competitive districts.

CJAC’s mission is to confront the litigious atmosphere in California, which ranks near the bottom of states in lawsuit climate.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Brown, officials gather in Fresno to launch high-speed rail construction

As reported by the Fresno Bee:

With California Gov. Jerry Brown leading the way, a ceremony Tuesday in downtown Fresno marked the start of construction on the high-speed rail project, more than six years after voters approved a $9.9 billion bond act that will help fund the system.

Rather than donning hard hats and shovels, however, Brown and other dignitaries signed ceremonial pieces of steel rails to signal that the project is underway. The invitation-only ceremony took place at the future site of Fresno’s high-speed rail station on the northeast corner of Tulare and G streets, while a small but boisterous gathering of protesters punctuated the event with occasional shouts and chants.

Read the full story here 

The Democratic Wall in CA has Leaks

The Republican election day tide which saw a gain of 7 senate seats, 13 House seats and 3 governorships across the nation banged into the Sierra Nevada wall that has often separated California metaphorically from the rest of the country with Democrats once again sweeping all the statewide offices. But this time there were leaks in the wall. Republicans apparently accomplished the party’s modest goal of keeping the Democrats from capturing a two-thirds majority in the Legislature.

The Republicans might have made a bigger splash if more money was directed toward a couple of statewide candidates in competitive races. Both Secretary of State candidate Pete Peterson and Controller candidate Ashley Swearengin came within five-percent of their opponents without substantial financial support.

As part of the national trend boosting Republicans in Congress, tight races could fall to Republicans with Doug Ose and Carl DeMaio holding narrow leads early this morning. Incumbent Republican congress members Jeff Denham and David Valadao, who were supposed to be in danger when the election campaigns began, won handily. There may even be an unexpected upset of long time Democratic Congressman Jim Costa to Johnny Tacherra in CD 16.

The Secretary of State’s website is monitoring four razor thin races on a special page of the website. The close races are defined as within two-percentage points. Those races include the Costa-Tacherra contest along with two other congressional races: Brownley-Gorrell in CD 26 (current edge to Brownley, the Democrat) and Peters-DeMaio in CD 52 (current edge to DeMaio, the Republican.)

The fourth contest on that site is an all-Democratic contest for Assembly District 39, in which Assembly Revenue and Taxation Chairman Raul Bocanegra is less than one-percentage point behind Patty Lopez. Bocanegra easily took the primary with over 62% of the vote but is in danger of losing the seat to Lopez, an education advocate. Bocanegra is a leading Democrat who tried to work with the business community.

As of this writing, Governor Jerry Brown has a 17.5% advantage over Neel Kashkari. When Brown ran for re-election in his first stint in the office 36 years ago he defeated Attorney General Evelle Younger by 19.5% of the vote. It’s hard to compare the two contests, Younger being much better known at that time than Kashkari is now, but Brown not really mounting a campaign this time.

Brown’s coattails when he chose to get involved in races did not seem very effective. He campaigned in Assembly District 16 for Tim Sbranti who as of this writing is nearly 4-percentage points behind Republican Catharine Baker. He attended a rally for incumbent Al Muratsuchi in AD 66 who has apparently lost to Republican David Hadley. Meanwhile, Brown’s many radio ads in Southern California on behalf of Jose Solorio feel flat as he lost by 20-points to Republican Janet Nguyen in Senate District 34.

This piece was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

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