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With L.A.'s help, Cooley leads in attorney general's race, Times/USC poll finds

October 22, 2010 |  3:00 pm

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, a Republican, holds a narrow lead over Democratic opponent Kamala Harris in the contentious race for California attorney general, aided greatly by voter support on his usually Democratic home turf, a new Los Angeles Times/USC poll has found.

The survey showed that Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, has thus far failed to captivate the Democratic stronghold of Los Angeles County, home to one out of every four registered voters in California and a near must-win for any Democrat running statewide.

Cooley, a veteran prosecutor seen largely as a moderate Republican, has won three D.A. elections in Los Angeles County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans almost two to one.

In the survey, Cooley held a 42%-33% advantage over Harris among likely voters in the county. Statewide, he had a 40%-35% edge among likely voters, according to the survey.

The biggest remaining wild card in the race is a large pool of undecided voters; 17% of the likely voters still have not made up their minds, the poll found -- a common occurrence in the "down ballot" races. In the governor’s race, by comparison, only 4% of likely voters were undecided, according to the poll.

The survey has better news for another Bay Area Democrat: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom held a slight lead over Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a former state senator from Santa Maria appointed to the statewide office in April.

Newsom carries a 42%-37% advantage. In contrast to Harris, he crushes his Republican opponent in Los Angeles County by more than a two-to-one margin.

But Maldonado has made inroads among Latinos, chipping away a pool of voters that has traditionally backed Democrats. Newsom still has a 10% advantage among likely Latino voters, the survey found, but nearly a third of the Latinos polled backed Maldonado -- close to the level of support that political strategists say a Republican candidate needs to win statewide.

The poll was done for the Los Angeles Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences by two national polling firms, the Democratic firm Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint. It was conducted by telephone Oct. 13-20 among a random sample of 1,501 California voters, including landline and cellphone respondents. There was an oversample of Latino respondents for a total of 460 Latino interviews. Results reported are based on 922 likely voters. Results for the full sample have a 2.5-point error margin, a 4.6-point error margin for Latino respondents and a 3.2-point error margin for likely voters.

-- Phil Willon

 

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