Will a big-name Dem run away with the attorney general's race?

Last week, on the very day District Attorney Kamala Harris fired off a press release crowing she had raised $1 million over the past six months for her attorney general campaign, a poll was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle claiming state voters prefer a candidate who hasn't even deigned to enter the race over Harris or other, lesser-known wannabes, by a 5-to-1 margin. Harsh.

And yet, a local political scientist brushed aside the results, noting that any big-name Democrat recognizable to folks outside the Bay Area would probably poll just as well — if not better. Harsher.

In this case, the big-name Democrat is Rep. Jackie Speier, the frosh congresswoman from the Peninsula. You might intuit Speier doesn't like her new job in Washington, D.C., if, before her first full term is even up, her name is appearing in a poll for another elected office. But a newly minted local spokesman for Speier, Nathan Ballard — you may remember him not returning calls regarding Mayor Gavin Newsom quite recently — says that his new boss didn't commission the poll by James Moore. Ballard says that Moore, a longtime friend of Speier's, was undertaking it for someone else when he decided to toss questions about Speier into the mix. Moore did not return SF Weekly's calls.

When asked how the poll's results found their way to Chron columnists Matier & Ross, however, Ballard said, “I'm not going to comment on that.”

Ballard did affirm that the congresswoman is heartened by the poll, in which 23 percent of surveyed voters preferred her, compared to 5 percent who picked silver medalist Harris. “At this point, she is just considering it,” said Ballard of an attorney general run for Speier. “She's not ruling anything out.”

University of San Francisco professor Corey Cook says, however, that the Moore poll “is not news.”

In an AG's race “between three candidates where the campaign hasn't even really started yet and they haven't ideologically differentiated themselves and voters can't even discern the candidates outside of their own geographic regions, I'm not surprised 'undecided' is the big bloc,” he says, noting that 62 percent of those Moore polled couldn't make up their minds. “Give me the name of anybody who's run statewide and they instantaneously fall to the front. But that doesn't mean anything. It's not significant in January of 2010. It'd be a lot more significant in June.”

Cook sighed. “If someone comes in with high name recognition, that could, in fact, clear the field. But I'm not certain that's Jackie Speier. I don't mean to be critical, but I'm not sure. You could draw a lot of names that'd clear the field. And I don't think you needed this poll to tell you that.”

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