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Democrats hold narrow leads in key Calif. races

The Democrats hold a narrow advantage in California where big-spending Republican Meg Whitman is struggling, as Democrats show increased enthusiasm about voting on November 2, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Tuesday.
Image: Meg Whitman
California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman listens to a question from reporters during a news conference in Santa Monica, Calif. on Sept. 30.Jae C. Hong / AP file
/ Source: Reuters

The Democrats hold a narrow advantage in California where big-spending Republican Meg Whitman is struggling, as Democrats show increased enthusiasm about voting on Nov. 2, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.

The poll found that enthusiasm about the election among Democrats has improved, with 75 percent of Democrats saying they are certain to vote compared to 60 percent in June.

Democrat Jerry Brown leads Whitman in the race to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as California governor, 50 percent to 43 percent. Whitman is a billionaire and former eBay CEO who has spent at least $119 million of her own money on her campaign.

The poll found that a flap over Whitman's former housekeeper Nicky Diaz, a Latina woman who said she worked for Whitman as an illegal immigrant, does not appear to have had a big impact on the race.

The survey said 88 percent of registered voters had heard of the allegations but that 72 percent said the information made no difference in the way they plan to vote.

Latinos make up roughly a third of California's population and a fifth of the electorate, and so they could decide the race.

Mexico native Diaz surfaced last week to claim Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griff Harsh, knowingly employed her illegally for nine years and treated her poorly.

Whitman said she fire Diaz when Diaz said she was in the country illegally.

Whitman has fiercely denied the accusation, saying Diaz lied to the couple about her immigration status and was being manipulated by high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, who has been a friend and supporter of Democratic rival Brown.

In the Senate race, Incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer holds a slender lead of 49 percent to 45 percent over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina.

Republicans remain highly engaged in the state — 83 percent said they are enthusiastic about voting — but Democrats hold a large advantage among numbers of registered voters in California.

The poll of 600 registered California voters, including 448 likely voters, was taken after a debate between Brown and Whitman on Saturday.

Forty-nine percent of California voters oppose an effort to suspend the state's climate change law, while 37 percent favor the proposal, the poll said.

Most voters oppose a ballot proposal on Nov. 2 to legalize marijuana.

In a separate survey, Democrats nationwide appear to be struggling to energize Hispanic supporters, a Pew Hispanic Center study found.

Hispanic voters appear significantly less motivated than the rest of the United States to cast election ballots even though two-thirds of Latino registered voters say they'll vote Democratic in their congressional race, according to the study.

The survey, released Tuesday, found 51 percent of Latino registered voters were absolutely certain they would vote — compared with 70 percent of U.S. voters — and 65 percent of Latino voters planned to support the Democrat in their congressional district, compared with 47 percent of U.S. voters.