CA120: The Race for Second Place

U.S. Senate contenders: Democrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Ron Unz. (Photo Illustration by Tim Foster/Capitol Weekly)

Great fights often have great names.

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Wait a second: The Race for Second Place?CA120_header4

Our recent Republican and Democratic primary polls suggest that Democrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Ron Unz are in a tight race to place a very distant second to Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris in California’s U.S. Senate primary on June 7. It’s important: A second-place finish guarantees a spot on the November general election ballot.

Among No Party Preference voters, Sanchez has a slight advantage, but both candidates are in the single digits

In our poll of likely Republican primary voters, Unz led with 20%.

Among likely Democratic primary voters, Sanchez receives 15%, to Harris’ 54%.

If turnout comports with past presidential primary history, the electorate will be 44% Democrats and 35.5% Republicans, which means that both Unz and Sanchez are at perhaps 7% each overall, a figure that reflects support from their respective party’s members. When factoring in the large numbers of undecideds, that 7 percent may rise slightly to 8 percent for Unz and 9% for Sanchez, as shown in our table below.

The party distribution within the electorate reflects a fairly conservative turnout estimate, predicated mainly on having voted in at least two of the last three statewide primary elections, or in the November 2014 general election (which, in terms of numbers, may as well have been a primary because of the anemic turnout).

But assuming that Republican participation drops to 30% and Democrats increase to 50%, the race remains close if Unz can win the support of half of Republicans (15% of total vote) and Sanchez a third of Democrats (16.5%).

And if you think that’s a stretch for Unz, take a look at his website and think about the Trump voters.  And again, think about Sanders voters looking at Sanchez’s ballot designation “California Congresswoman.”

Among No Party Preference voters Sanchez has a slight advantage, but both candidates are in the single digits


  ALL Dem (44%) GOP (35.5%) Other (20.5%)
Harris 32% 54% 5% 29%
Sanchez 9% 15% 2% 9%
Unz 8% 1% 20% 3%
Del Becarro 6% 1% 13% 4%
Sundheim 3% * 6% 5%
Undecided/other 42% 29% 56% 50%


Sanchez would seem to have several structural advantages in this “race” with Unz – the NPP are more liberal and Unz, of course, has to split votes with two other (relatively) major Republican candidates.

The lack of a contested Republican presidential race may mean that GOP turnout lags, while the continuing fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders suggests that turnout will be strong on the Democratic side and add to Democratic totals.

Despite that, Unz should be considered a very slight favorite in this race.  He is ideologically aligned to Trump, particularly on immigration, while Sanchez, as a longtime member of Congress, may have limited appeal to Sanders supporters. Sanchez also struggles mightily with Clinton voters, as Harris has nearly monopolized establishment support.

Based on that, it’s logical to expect that the 54% undecided Republicans will break more strongly for Unz than the 27% of undecided Democrats will for Sanchez.

But while a Republican may win The Race for Second Place (despite what often seemed like the California Republican Party’s best efforts), the Democratic advantage in the general election means that Unz is almost certain to remain in second place for the duration of the campaign.

Race for Second Place, indeed.

 Ed’s Note: Jonathan Brown, head of Sextant Strategies and Research, is a regular contributor to Capitol Weekly. He and colleague Paul Mitchell are providing data-driven coverage to Capitol Weekly on the 2016 elections in California.

  • Laurence B. Goodhue

    Harris is in cue to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned for her complicity in a
    CRIMINAL RUSE with Robert Garcia–who at the time of the Criminal Ruse
    City Council Member
    Vice Mayor
    Chair of the City Council Public Safety Commitee
    California Coastal Commissioner.
    The Criminal Ruse: Gifting $300K of Tidelands Funds to a very select few
    panting to increase their investment portfolio=via razing a much needed;
    well constructed well marinated support building in Long Beach Marie
    Justification put forward by Garcia and his fellow travelers to raze the
    much needed support structure–axiomatic to Coastal Access???
    Garcia claimed the building Marine Stadium was an epi center of nocturnal
    NOT SO!!! NOT SO ALL ALL!!! Say the uncontroverted LBPD records
    produce by the highly credible Jim Mc Donnell-then LBPD Chief–now
    LAC Sherriff
    More to the point-the building as a fortress-with two 200 IRON GATES
    and steel locks==which will be presented to the Grand Jury
    Along with the above evidence the FBI and USDOJ –have two letters from
    Harris Office saying that is NOT HER JOBTO PROSECUTE such crimes-ie
    Gifting $300K of STATE FUNDS!!!!!
    The night SHE that was so rebuked by the US 9th Circuit Court(La Times 1/31/15
    cut-MORE THAN RUG–evidenced by the QUI PRO QUO- which surfaces
    two weeks later—ie–FOR NOT PROSECUTING GARICA—he would support
    HARRIS’S WET DREAM to become US Senator:
    A reading of the local media for past few months–gives one an idea as to
    when the COMPLICT DUO’S will be first in cue…..just check the dates
    of those who have been in cues-when their crimes were committed–the oldest
    was about six years ago-he was fitted for JUMP SUIT four months ago—–
    thus some time in November or December (barring a new major development
    warranting full attention of USDOJ–Robert Garcia and his Auntie will begin their

  • Skep41

    So the Senate Candidate, our current attorney general, who wants criminal trials for ‘Climate Deniers’ is a hands-down favorite for first place and the odds are that California will have a senatorial election where the choice will be between Democrat A and Democrat B. Great! One-party Democratic Socialism has arrived because the California electorate is so phenomenally stupid that they voted this system in. In the district I live in there will not be a single Republican on the ballot for any office except president. Why are Mexicans moving here? A phony ‘ socialist democracy’ where the ruling class and the gubmint unions run everything and most people are scratching out a living on the borders of poverty with no hope for betterment…how are Zacatecas and Modesto any different these days? They should just save themselves the trouble of moving north.

    • Majgendude

      No sympathy here. This top 2 primary system was dreamed up by our last REPUBLICAN governor. And in my congressional and state legislature districts, choices are limited in general elections to Republicans or tea-baggers.

  • njudah

    California seems to have embraced the idea of the Peter Principle in politics – keep giving promotions to people, no matter how unqualified. It is mind blowing that a liberal, do-nothing DA from San Francisco can oppose the death penalty for a cop killer, get elected AG of California, and now is getting a free ride to the US Senate, a job she’s simply not qualified for. The GOP isn’t even a factor in a race for an office they dominated for a long long time. What the heck happened???

    Oh well. I bet the people who said the “top 2” primary system was going to make things better for “moderate” politicians are really regretting their decision now….

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