Laird claims his own poll gives him slight edge over Blakeslee

Former Assemblyman John Laird says his own polling shows him with a slight lead over his likely opponent for a potential coastal Senate seat, Assembly GOP Leader Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo.

The seat only becomes vacant if the current occupant, Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, is confirmed by the Legislature and leaves to become lieutenant governor. Maldonado is Gov. Schwarzenegger’s nominee to succeed John Garamendi, a Democrat who was elected to Congress in November.

Laird, a Santa Cruz Democrat, said Monday that the poll gave him a lead “in the low single digits.” Respondents were asked twice about the theoretical match-up, first near the beginning of the call with pollsters, then again “after every conceivable thing was thrown and him and me both,” Laird said. He said the lead grew slightly after potential negatives were given to respondents.

“It just means it’s totally competitive,” Laird said.

Blakeslee wasn’t immediately available for comment.

However, Blakeslee is outpacing Laird in fundraising.

Secretary of State records show that Laird currently has $90,000 cash on hand in an account for a planned 2012 run at the seat, while Blakeslee’s campaign committee has taken in $384,000 since the beginning of last year.

Republicans may cast Laird as too liberal for the district, which is more evenly divided than his former Santa Cruz Assembly district. Laird is also openly gay, but sources say this would probably not be much of a factor in this moderate coastal district.

Blakeslee, meanwhile, was known as one of the more moderate members of the Republican caucus before becoming leader last June.  Blakeslee was succeeded as leader by Assemblyman Martin Garrick, R-Carlsbad, on Feb. 1.

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