Buoyed by a surge in support from women and Latinos, Democrat Jerry Brown has taken an 8-point lead in the California governor’s race, which has been characterized in recent weeks by nonstop attack ads on TV and fliers flooding mailboxes throughout the state.
The campaigning is being driven largely by unions supporting Brown, California’s attorney general, and a record-setting spending spree by GOP challenger Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who has tapped her personal fortune for $142 million and has raised nearly $30 million more from outside contributors.
The Public Policy Institute of California survey released late Wednesday showed Brown with 44 percent support among likely voters to Whitman’s 36 percent.
Whitman finds herself trailing the former two-term governor despite her enormous campaign account and extensive niche targeting of voters by gender, race, and geography.
The PPIC poll gave Brown 51 percent support among Latinos, despite Whitman’s aggressive targeting of them, and found that women also favor Brown over Whitman 47 percent to 32 percent. Men and white voters are divided.
Brown campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford said the poll shows Brown’s strategy of holding off on campaigning is paying off because many voters are only now tuning in.
“Jerry said from the beginning of this campaign, in the post-Labor Day period when people are paying attention, we’d be a lot more aggressive with Jerry’s message of fiscal discipline of state government and growing the green economy,” Clifford said. “They like what Jerry has to say.”
Unions also have flooded voters’ mailboxes with campaign literature critical of Whitman.
Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds noted that voters have repeatedly ranked jobs and the economy as their No. 1 issue this year. PPIC found voters preferred Whitman over Brown on this issue, as well as on the state budget and taxes.
“I don’t know of a single poll in this election that Meg hasn’t polled well on jobs and the economy,” he said. “When voters go into the voting booth, they will support Meg because she is the most credible candidate to deliver new jobs and real change in Sacramento.”
The survey was taken after two controversies that roiled the governor’s race — the revelation that Whitman had an illegal immigrant housekeeper for nine years and a leaked recording of a private conversation in which a Brown campaign aide called Whitman a “whore” for allegedly cutting a pension deal with law enforcement unions to get their endorsement.
The poll was conducted by telephone in English and Spanish from Oct. 10 to 17. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the 1,067 likely voters surveyed.
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