Calif. governor's race in statistical tie

Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman find themselves tied in their race for California governor.

July 7, 2010 8:12:21 PM PDT
It's now a dead heat in the governor's race. Republican Meg Whitman has closed the gap on Democrat Jerry Brown. The latest field poll shows the two in a statistical tie, at 43 and 44 percent, and political experts say Brown has good reason to worry.

Last fall, Brown had a 20-point lead over Whitman and then in January it was down to a 10 point lead -- now it's a tie. Whitman is eroding Brown's support among a key group of California voters.

Whitman began courting Hispanic voters with Spanish language political ads right after the June primary.

Her bruising primary campaign with Republican Steve Poizner pushed Whitman to say she was 100 percent against amnesty and that she opposed letting illegal immigrants attend state funded colleges or universities.

However, since then she's been stressing her opposition to Arizona's new immigration law, her break with her campaign chairman Pete Wilson over his anti-illegal immigration views, and two issues her campaign feels will resonate with Latino voters.

"One is reforming education and the second one is creating jobs," says Hector Barajas, a Whitman campaign spokesman.

Barajas, a former state GOP spokesman, now working for Whitman says she is going all out to bring out the Latino vote.

"She has been to San Diego, she's been to Modesto, she's been to Fresno," says Barajas.

And in the latest field poll of Latino voters, Whitman is within 11 percentage points of catching Brown. Whitman has 39 percent of the Latino vote, Brown has 50 percent. Since January, her support among Latino voters has gone up 13 points.

"Yeah, well you know she spent a tremendous amount of money, so we expect there to be close polling throughout the election. Everyone knew this would be a tight race," says Sterling Clifford, a Brown campaign spokesman.

Clifford downplays the latest numbers saying Whitman was actually leading Brown by 3 points in the last field poll and there are four months until the election.

"She's been spending more than $2 million a week on attack ads since the primary and the numbers haven't really moved," says Clifford.

Eva Royale spent a decade with the United Farm Workers Union, knows Brown marched with Ceasar Chavez, and knows Latinos will eventually support him.

"The campaign hasn't even started. It usually doesn't start until after Labor Day," says Royale.

U.S. Berkeley political scientist Henry Brady, Ph.D., says Brown's campaign has good reason to worry.

"He's not that well known among young people. There's a substantial fraction of younger people who don't really know much about Jerry Brown so Meg Whitman in these ads is defining him in a way that might be very bad for him," says Brady.

Brady says Brown has a very difficult choice, start spending his war chest now to counteract Whitman and hope more money comes in later. Or he could wait and risk falling behind. For now Brown's campaign is content waiting.

On Wednesday, Whitman's campaign launched a webpage aimed at younger voters. Also on Thursday, Brown's campaign will launch its Latino outreach.


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