If trends in the new Berkeley/IGS survey hold, California voters will have to choose between two Democrats running for governor in the November 2018 election.

North vs. South in Governor’s Race

The poll of likely voters shows Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pulling away from the rest of the pack in the June top-two primary.

Newsom leads Villaraigosa by 26 percent to 17 percent among likely voters. Everyone else is in single digits, including two Republicans. Two other Democrats, state Treasurer John Chiang and former Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin, each have support from just 5 percent of voters. Twenty-eight percent are undecided.

Survey director Mark DiCamillo says the poll finds wide differences in voter support between the two leading Democrats running for governor.

“Newsom’s base of support is largely in Northern California, particularly in the Bay Area, where he has a huge lead,” DiCamillo said. “Whereas Villaraigosa is more popular than Newsom in Southern California, especially L.A. County. So you’d have a battle of the two regions.”

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speak at the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in July 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speak at the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in July 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Alex Wong and Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Villaraigosa is strongest among conservatives, Latinos and voters with household incomes less than $40,000 a year. Among voters born outside the U.S., Villaraigosa leads Newsom by 32 to 15 percent, while Newsom is carrying U.S.-born voters 29 to 13 percent.

“And what all of that means is that the turnout and the composition of the electorate really would make a difference to their levels of support in the primary,” DiCamillo said.

“The smaller the turnout the more likely the white, upper-income, better-educated voter would dominate the electorate,” although he noted that the results reflect the preferences of people who are likely to vote.

Feinstein Has ‘Modest’ Lead in Senate Contest

In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein leads state Senate President Kevin de León from Los Angeles by 41 percent to 27 percent, a margin DiCamillo describes as “modest.” A third of voters are undecided.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her main Democratic rival, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her main Democratic rival, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images and Bert Johnson/KQED)

“For her to be only polling 41 against someone unknown to most voters is a little surprising, and I think weaker than I would have expected,” DiCamillo said.

De León is currently drawing strong support from conservatives and Republicans, even though he’s running to the left of Feinstein.

Because of that, DiCamillo suggests “de León’s support might be a little bit inflated because they’re mostly voting yes or no about Feinstein. But I think as he becomes better known and his campaign kicks in, I don’t think that would likely hold.”

And DiCamillo said Feinstein’s weakness could draw others into the fray.

So far, no major Republican has entered the U.S. Senate race.

In Races for Governor and U.S. Senate, It’s the Incredible Shrinking Republicans 21 December,2017Scott Shafer

  • digger5

    What effect does this have on down ballot races? Without a strong Republican at the top of the ticket (or anywhere near the top), will Republicans come out to vote? Will the 2018 elections have a turnout pattern like a Gubernatorial Election for Democrats and a Special Election for Republicans?

  • mark! Lopez

    I don’t know anyone in LA that supports Villaraigosa, except people who seem to think they can personally benefit from being close to him or his cronies. No love for Villaraigosa over here

  • SF Sunset Guy

    Dianne Feinstein is, in the opinion of many Nor Cal Democrats, basically a Republican. An out of touch, multi-millionaire, NSA-backing, establishmentarian 83 year old five-term Senator isn’t exactly inspiring to the progressive wing of the party, either. Gavin Newsom isn’t particularly well regarded in Northern CA either. He, like many San Francisco pseudo-progressives, is basically seat warming, waiting for the next opportunity for a different position higher up the food chain.

Author

Scott Shafer

Scott Shafer migrated to KQED in 1998 after extended stints in politics and government to host The California  Report. Now he covers those things and more as senior editor for KQED’s Politics and Government Desk. When he’s not asking questions you’ll often find him in a pool playing water polo. Find him on Twitter @scottshafer

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