The first poll of California’s increasingly active Senate contest is out — via the LA Times/UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies — and it shows Democrats Adam Schiff (at 22%) and Katie Porter (20%) leading the early pack among Democratic and nonpartisan voters, followed by fellow Democrats Barbara Lee (at 6%) and Ro Khanna (at 4%).
Some 40% of these voters are undecided.
Schiff, Porter and Lee have all announced bids to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., while Khanna has yet to officially make up his mind.
But there’s one important caveat about this poll: It doesn’t poll Republican voters, since no prominent GOP candidate has jumped into this race.
Yet under California’s Top 2 primary system, all voters — Democrats, independents and Republicans — get to participate. And the top two finishers, regardless of party, advance to the general election.
But that GOP factor could play an important role in this contest, which won’t take place until next year.
While the 2016 and 2018 Senate contests in California featured only Democrats competing in the general election, it is conceivable that a Republican could run and finish the primary in the Top 2 by consolidating all of the GOP votes in this blue state (like what happened in 2022).
Under that scenario, only one Democrat — Schiff, Porter, Lee, Khanna or someone else — would make it to the general election.
Or even if a prominent GOP candidate doesn’t run, Republicans (6 million Californians voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 general election) could vote for the Democrat they dislike the least or think is the weakest candidate. Or simply not vote at all.
Yes, it’s more likely than not that two Democrats advance under California’s Top 2 primary system.
But Republicans will have a say — and a vote — about it.