Poll: Republican Whitman tied with Brown in Calif. governor's race

Chris Rizo Nov. 20, 2009, 12:07am

Jerry Brown (D)

Meg Whitman (R)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-If California Attorney General Jerry Brown decides to run for governor next year, he could have some real competition on his hands -- from a Republican, a poll indicates.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday indicates that Brown, a major longtime figure in California politics, has the same level of support as Republican gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman, a former Silicon Valley executive, in a state where Democrats far outnumber Republicans on voter registration rolls.

In a hypothetical general election matchup, the Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown, who has not formally entered the race, is in a dead heat with Whitman, the former eBay chief executive, both with 41 percent support.

The poll found that 14 percent of California voters are undecided.

In a September poll by Rasmussen, Brown led Whitman by nearly 10 percentage points, 44 percent to 35 percent.

Although Brown has not formally entered the gubernatorial race, he has formed an exploratory committee, allowing him to raise money for a potential bid.

In addition to Whitman, former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a former state finance director, are vying to succeed fellow Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is barred by term-limits from seeking reelection.

Brown, who was California governor from 1975 to 1983, may seek another two terms as the state's chief executive because he led California before term limits were enacted.

In potential matchups with the other two GOP candidates, Brown would handily win if the general election were held today, the poll indicates.

Brown leads Campbell by nine points, 42 percent to 33 percent, and leads Poizner by 11 points, 43 percent to 32 percent.

On the Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, Brown told Legal Newsline last week that they are all "smart" but cautioned them that leading the Golden State is "different than running a business," taking a jab at Whitman and Poizner, who before entering politics were business leaders.

For her part, Whitman has said Brown is an entrenched career politician.

"I'm not a career politician. I spent 30 years in business," Whitman said in a recent ABC News interview. "I can tell you that people in California have had it with career politicians: they are done."

Although Brown, 71, is far better known than any of the Republican candidates, he is a more controversial political figure, with 41 percent of California voters viewing him unfavorably and 30 percent very unfavorably.

Brown was the mayor of Oakland, Calif., from 1998 to 2006, before being elected as the state's chief legal officer in 2007. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nominations for U.S. president in 1976, 1980, and 1992.

He is the only Democrat preparing for a run for his party's gubernatorial nomination. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom abandoned his campaign late last month amid lackluster poll numbers and poor fundraising.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., are two names frequently mentioned as other possible Democrats interested in jumping into the governor race.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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