Election 2010: Brown keeps lead over Whitman in gov’s race, poll shows | SierraSun.com

Election 2010: Brown keeps lead over Whitman in gov’s race, poll shows

Samantha Young
The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. and#8212; Democrat Jerry Brown holds a double-digit lead over Republican Meg Whitman in their contest for California governor less than a week before Election Day, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.

The survey found the former two-term governor leading the former eBay chief executive 49 percent to 39 percent among likely voters. It is the third poll released in the past week showing Brown leading a race considered too close to call a month ago.

“I don’t remember anything in recent memory, going back 50 years, a candidate riding this low in the polls overtaking and winning,” this close to an election, said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

That doesn’t bode well for Whitman, a billionaire who has spent nearly $142 million of her own money in her first bid for political office. She has spent the past two weeks traveling California in a bid to woo the independent voters she needs to win in a state where Democrats hold a 13-point registration advantage.

Brown appears to be gaining favor among undecided voters, who in previous polls made up about a fifth of likely voters. Thursday’s poll shows 12 percent remain undecided.

“What we’ve known in the history of elections, politics and campaigns is that undecided voters like to see where momentum is going and then they are likely to jump on the bandwagon,” Regalado said. “Simply by looking at the polls, Jerry has to be happy and Meg has to be worried.”

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Just a month ago, Brown and Whitman were tied after a summer of intense advertising and campaigning by Whitman. Brown began advertising over the Labor Day weekend.

The general election campaign for governor has become the most expensive in the state’s history, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The candidates have met in three debates this fall, and each dealt with controversies that temporarily overshadowed their campaigns. Whitman was forced to admit that her former housekeeper of nine years was an illegal immigrant from Mexico, after she called on holding employers accountable for hiring illegal workers. Whitman says she fired Nicky Diaz Santillan last year when she learned Santillan was in the country illegally.

Meanwhile, a female Brown campaign aide was overheard on a leaked audio tape calling Whitman a “whore” for cutting a deal with a police union for its endorsement. Brown apologized for the remark but continued to attack his rival for bowing to union pressure.

The Field Poll indicates Brown has shored up his support among women and Latinos, traditionally Democratic-leaning constituencies that Whitman has aggressively targeted. Latinos are supporting Brown, the state attorney general, 57 percent to 27 percent, while women support him 51 percent to 35 percent.

Of the likely voters interviewed, 21 percent have already cast their ballots and#8212; 48 percent in favor of Brown and 41 percent in support of Whitman. An estimated 55 percent of likely voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, a record high percentage for a general election in California.

The poll surveyed 1,092 likely voters by telephone from Oct. 14-26. It has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.