By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine
Friday, April 11, 2014

With Gov. Jerry Brown in a commanding position to be re-elected in November and with transparency and integrity in office thrust into the news by scandal in Sacramento, the most interesting statewide contest – one in which a Republican has at least a shot at winning a constitutional office — is the race for Secretary of State.

It’s the office that propelled Brown himself to statewide prominence as a Watergate era reformer – an office that oversees elections and corporations – sort of Sacramento’s Minister of Fairness.

And right now, before any real campaign has been launched, Republican Pete Peterson is the leading contender in the latest Field Poll.

alexpadillamugPeterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at PepperdineUniversity, is pulling 30% of likely voters compared to state Sen. Alex Padilla of the San Fernando Valley at 17% in the Field Poll from March 18-April 5.

Others Sucking Wind The rest of the candidates trail far behind, with the Green Party’s David Curtis at 5%, non-partisan Dan Schnur at 4% and Democrat Derek Cressman at 3%. The differences among them are statistically insignificant.

A whopping 41% of likely voters are undecided about the race and even the best-known candidate – Padilla – is still unknown to 54% of the voters.

In California’s two-step election process, the top two candidates in the June “primary” election, regardless of party, face off in the November general election.

Before Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was arrested and charged with gun running and bribery, the standings in the survey were Peterson at 27%, Padilla 10% and Yee 8%. After Yee dropped out of the Secretary of State’s race, Peterson picked up 3% and Padilla added 7% in the Field Poll being conducted at the time.

Dan SchnurHow Non-Partisan Plays One of the most intriguing aspects of the SOS race is the presence of Schnur, the former Republican operative (and friend of many reporters) who later headed the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and re-registered as a “no party preference” voter. At Calbuzz’s urging, the Field Poll — as an academic exercise — tested whether Schnur is helped or hindered by running as a non-partisan instead of as a Republican.

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