By Christopher Cadelago
Published: Saturday, Apr. 12, 2014 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Saturday, Apr. 12, 2014 – 12:35 am

In the state controller’s race, Republican Ashley Swearengin holds an early lead over a pair of better-known Democrats vying to advance to the general election in November, according to a new Field Poll.

Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno, has the backing of 28 percent of likely voters and derives much of her support from fellow Republicans. In the intraparty showdown for second place, state Board of Equalization member Betty Yee receives 19 percent and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez gets 14 percent. Thirty-eight percent are undecided and 1 percent prefer another candidate in the down-ticket contest.

Under the state’s new election system, the top-two finishers regardless of party proceed to the general election contest to replace Controller John Chiang, a Democrat who is termed out and running for state treasurer.

Considered a rising star of the California GOP, Swearengin could give her hobbled state party the best chance at reclaiming a constitutional office. Her path to victory becomes considerably tougher should she finish in the top two.

She counts as supporters 61 percent of conservatives and does well with non-college graduates, inland residents and voters over the age of 50. The likely electorate for the June 3 primary is 75 percent white, 67 percent over 50 and 37 percent Republican, said Mark DiCamillo , director of the Field Poll.

“Swearengin is definitely benefiting from the fact that this will be a low-turnout election,” he said.

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