RSF GOP gov hopeful polls in single digits

Shown here during a losing Illinois campaign, Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox is running as a Republican for governor of California.

Rancho Santa Fe businessman and self-financed candidate for governor John Cox barely registered a blip in the first major statewide polling on the race.

Cox came in as the third-rated candidate with 9 percent support among likely voters in the latest Berkeley IGS Poll released today, Thursday, June 8. His fellow Republican gubernatorial wannabe former California Assembly member David Hadley did even worse, attracting 7 percent of likely voters.

The two GOP candidates led all Democrats among conservatives, with Cox leading among strongly conservative voters.

Cox, 62, who calls himself a venture capitalist, became the first Republican to declare for the 2018 governor’s race when he announced in early March. He has run for office three times and lost three times. One of those losses came as a candidate for President — of the United States — in 2007-8.

Cox issued his announcement via Facebook with a video you see below this paragraph. “There are two Californias,” he said, “the one we have, and the one we could have. The California we have is in trouble, and we need to do something about it,”

Cox, who is self-financing his run, was a 3-time loser in his native Illinois before relocating to Rancho Santa Fe in 2009. One of those losses was epic. That would be 2003 when he lost a Senate run to an obscure state legislature and former community organizer — Barack Obama.

Cox rode in on the statewide political rodeo circuit last year spending $1 million on a proposed ballot measure that would have required legislators to wear the corporate logos of their top 10 donors when advocating for a measure in the Legislature. The measure couldn’t qualify for the ballot.

The actual race for governor is among Democrats

Democrats lapped the field in Berkeley GIS polling for the race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown in next year’s gubernatorial election. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom continues to hold the early lead. However, the latest Berkeley IGS Poll finds another Democrat, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, now running a close second.

Newsom is the choice of 22 percent of the state’s likely voters, while 17 percent prefer Villaraigos, according to Mark DiCamillo, Berkeley IGS Poll director.

Two other Democrats, State Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools superintendent Delaine Eastin, trailed with 5 percent and 3 percent respectively. About one in three voters, 37 percent, were undecided.

The poll finds large differences in preference between the frontrunners across a wide range of voter subgroups. Newsom is leading among strong liberals, Northern Californians, especially those in the San Francisco Bay Area, white non-Hispanic voters, and upper income Californians. By contrast, Villaraigosa is preferred among Southern California voters, Latinos, voters born outside the United States, and Californians at the lower end of the income scale.

It’s still early, but the June 2018 open primary likely will result in a two-Democrat race in a state where the Republican Party barely registers a heartbeat. Last year’s open primary for U.S. Senate resulted in two Democrats last November vying for the spot now occupied by Kamala Harris.

The full polling data can be found at http://escholarship.org/uc/item/4bd5k6nh.

Drilling down the numbers

These are the topline findings from the latest Berkeley IGS Poll completed by telephone in May among a random sample of 885 likely voters statewide. The Berkeley IGS Poll is housed within IGS’s newly established Jack Citrin Center for Public Opinion Research.

Voter preferences vary widely across subgroups of the state’s voting population

There are unusually large variations in voter preferences for governor across major political, regional and demographic subgroups of the state’s voting population.

Rank-and-file Democrats favor Newsom over Villaraigosa by fourteen points (40 percent to 26 percent). The state’s Republican voters are currently dividing their preferences between fellow Republicans Cox (27 percent) and Hadley (14 percent). Among No Party Preference voters Villaraigosa holds a small lead over Newsom.

One of Newsom’s strongest bases of political support comes from voters who identify themselves as being strongly liberal in politics. Among these voters, Newsom is preferred by 60%, while just 13% favor Villaraigosa. Newsom also leads Villaraigosa among more moderately liberal voters, but by a narrower 26% to 17% margin. The two GOP candidates lead all Democrats among conservatives, with Cox leading among strongly conservative voters.

Newsom is the favorite among voters living in Northern California, and is particularly well- positioned in the San Francisco Bay area, his home region. On the other hand, Villaraigosa is preferred over Newsom nearly two to one among voters living in the ten-county Southern California region, which comprises about 58 percent of the state’s voters. In the Central Valley Newsom leads by a small margin, with Republican Hadley placing second.

There are also big differences in voter preferences in the governor’s race relating to the racial/ethnic background of voters. Villaraigosa is the heavy favorite among the state’s rapidly growing Latino voter constituency, receiving 42 percent of their votes. By contrast, Newsom holds a solid lead among white non-Hispanics.

Villaraigosa is also preferred over Newsom by a more than two-to-one margin among voters of all nationalities born outside the United States, who the poll finds comprise about one in six of the state’s voters.

Another factor tied to vote choices has to do with a voter’s household income. Newsom holds a solid lead over Villaraigosa (28 percent to 7 percent) among voters in households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more. However, among voters at the other end of the income scale, Villaraigosa holds the advantage.

Newsom and Villaraigosa are the candidates best known to voters

As is usually the case in surveys measuring early voter preferences, the better-known candidates hold an advantage over those who are less well-known. The results of the latest Berkeley IGS Poll bear this out. Majorities of the likely voters interviewed in the current poll can offer an opinion of Newsom and Villaraigosa, but only about one in four can do so with regard to the four gubernatorial hopefuls.

Newsom and Villaraigosa also benefit from the fact that they are viewed more favorably than unfavorably among those offering an opinion. When asked about Newsom, 34 percent of voters view him favorably, 26 percent hold an unfavorable impression, while 40 percent do not venture an opinion.

In Villaraigosa’s case, 31 percent view him positively, 23 percent negatively and 46 percent have no opinion. Voter opinions of the lesser-known candidates are generally mixed, with about as many having a favorable as unfavorable impression. The exception is State Treasurer Chiang. Among the 25 percent offering an opinion, nearly twice as many view him favorably as unfavorably.

Meanwhile, back at the Cox campaign

Cox is making the rounds, as hopeless as it may seem. He was scheduled to speak at a Riverside Republican Women’s luncheon. Cox at s 11:30 a.m. June 16 at Riverside’s Victoria Club.

Cox is married and has four daughters. He said he was self-made,raised by a single mom. “I’m not going to apologize for being successful,” he said.

Somewhat confusing for someone who has declared for high public office, Cox was evasive in answers to political questions. He wouldn’t say if he voted for Donald Trump.

“I know my opponents will try to tie me to Mr. Trump. I am not Mr. Trump,” Cox said to the San Francisco Chronicle last year. “I’m analytical, I’m policy-oriented. I read five newspapers a day. I’m not a reality TV star that’s going to insult people. I’m going to try to rally people.”

Cox wouldn’t state his position on same-sex marriage or abortion rights. “That’s not what I’m running on at all,” he said.

Whatever, it’s a long shot at best. “Californians have no idea who he is,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego.

Writing “Why I am running for President,” for an online media source in September 2007, Cox said, “Conservative Republicans have for too long been taken for granted and worse, taken for fools by our elected leaders. We have had too many say they were conservative when they wanted our votes; only to watch them almost turn into liberals once they were elected.”

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