Carla Marinucci

Posted on Wednesday, May 28 at 11:35am | By Carla Marinucci

With Democrat Jerry Brown still holding a commanding lead in the California governor’s race, the Republican contest for second place remains lively — with Tea Party favorite Tim Donnelly enjoying a 7-point advantage over former Treasury official Neel Kashkari, according to a new Golden State Poll by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

The poll of 1,000 Californians was conducted May 7-19. With less than a week to go until the June 3 primary, it shows Brown with 36 percent, while Assemblyman Donnelly of Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County) has 12 percent and Kashkari has 5 percent. Donnelly enjoys 2-1 advantage over Kashkari among Republicans and 3-1 among independents, the poll shows.

The real shocker is the number of undecideds still in the race: 42 percent of Republicans, 40 percent of independents and 35 percent of overall respondents, the poll showed.

The poll comes on the heels of a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week, which showed Brown at 48 percent, Donnelly at 15 percent and Kashkari at 10 percent.

Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, said Kashkari’s low numbers in the Hoover poll may be the result of timing: The survey was taken “at the time he was pivoting and putting money into play.”

And with the huge number of undecideds in the race, Whalen said, the contest for second place is still fluid.

“The ballgame is this — the undecideds. … They’ll all start getting their minds set,” Whalen said. Kashkari is putting media out there, raising his profile, “and it may tie into the question of where is Donnelly’s ceiling.”

Brown’s 36 percent total shows him on a strong track to be elected to a fourth term, Whalen said. The number may appear low because of undecideds still not ready to commit to a candidate. But Brown “has great name recognition, and he hasn’t done anything to really antagonize voters,” Whalen said. “He’s a steady, centrist course … and he has a good story to tell.”

The numbers show that while many voters aren’t “madly in love with him,” Whalen said, “what you see is respect.”

The Golden State Poll tracked possible effects of the new “top two” primary system, under which the top two finishers of either party advance to the general election.

The poll showed 41 percent of respondents said the new voting system has them more interested in learning about candidates; 40 percent said they were neither more or less interested.

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