Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
April 3, 2016 – 8:01 AM

  • Democrats Harris and Sanchez running 1-2 in polls
  • If primary ends that way, they will face each other again
  • Republican and independent voters may be decisive

Bill Carrick, the veteran political consultant who advises U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez, was obviously elated last month by a Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Carrick dispatched an email to reporters and potential campaign donors declaring that Sanchez, an Orange County congresswoman, “is in a strong position to be one of the top two finalists in the primary and very well-positioned to win in November.”

It was not hyperbole, but rather a reasonable interpretation of the PPIC poll, which showed Sanchez close to frontrunner Kamala Harris both among Democrats and voters of all stripes.

A few days later, a USC/Los Angeles Times poll showed the same relative positions.

Given her advantages of name identification, money and endorsements, Harris, the state’s attorney general, should be chagrined that she has not established a commanding lead with the primary just nine weeks away.

That lapse could make her the first victim of California’s relatively new top-two primary system in a high-profile statewide contest.

All candidates appear on the same June primary ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, face each other in November.

If the top two finishers are from the same party, it means that independents and voters from the other party may cast the decisive votes in the runoff, as we’ve already seen in a number of legislative races.

The possibility that Democrats Harris and Sanchez could face each other in November is enhanced by having a flock of Republicans on the primary ballot, none of whom rises above single-digit support.

To read expanded column, click here.