- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Jerry Brown is maintaining a commanding lead in his bid for an unprecedented fourth term and leads a Democratic ticket that once again appears poised to sweep all statewide offices in California, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.

The survey of likely voters comes less than a week before Election Day and illustrates the difficulty Republicans face in competing in statewide campaigns. The GOP’s share of the California electorate has dropped to 28 percent, compared with 43 percent for Democrats.

The Field Poll found the two candidates vying for state superintendent of public instruction are in a dead heat, although nearly half of likely voters remain undecided in what is officially a nonpartisan race. Both candidates are Democrats.

At the top of the ticket, the poll shows Brown on the cusp of a historic re-election victory. The incumbent Democrat has support from 54 percent of likely voters compared with 33 percent for his Republican challenger, Neel Kashkari. Brown also leads among independent voters, with 59 percent support.

“I don’t want to presume, but this has been a well-run campaign,” Brown told reporters Thursday after voting early at the Alameda County registrar’s office in Oakland. “The reason is California was in a disaster state and it’s come back. It’s not come back to perfection or to utopia, but it’s on some very solid footing compared to what it’s been for many, many years. So that is a strong runway to enter a campaign, and that’s why I think things look pretty good.”

Kashkari was declining to comment on the poll, said his campaign spokeswoman, Mary-Sarah Kinner.

Democrats also lead in the races for the six other statewide partisan offices, with margins ranging from 7 to 13 percentage points. That includes the races for state controller and secretary of state, where moderate Republican candidates have been seeking to appeal to independents, a group that comprises 23 percent of the state’s electorate.

The most expensive and divisive statewide race of the year has been for state schools superintendent, an officially nonpartisan post. Both candidates happen to be Democrats, but they have stark differences on issues such as teacher tenure and accountability.

The contest between incumbent Tom Torlakson, a former state lawmaker and high school science teacher, and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive, has exposed divisions within the Democratic Party over allegiance to California’s powerful teachers unions.

The poll found both candidates had support from 28 percent of likely voters, with 44 percent undecided. Total spending in the race is approaching $14 million.

While Tuck is a Democrat, he has attracted support from Republican donors and voters for distancing himself from the teachers unions. The poll found Tuck leading among conservative voters, blacks, Latinos and Asians. That includes a lead of 38 percentage points among likely black voters.

Republicans this year had targeted lower-profile offices overseeing elections and state finances with moderate candidates.

But GOP controller candidate Ashley Swearengin and secretary of state candidate Pete Peterson have struggled to raise money to spread their messages through the state and its numerous media markets. Neither candidate has attracted significant spending from outside groups.

The poll shows Peterson lagging 7 percentage points behind Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla. Swearengin is 8 points behind Democrat Betty Yee, although she has been gaining support since earlier polls.

The Field Poll surveyed 941 likely voters Oct. 15-28. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.


Associated Press writer Terence Chea in Oakland contributed to this report.

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