San Diego legislator says he's forming 2016 Senate exploratory group

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris speaks to supporters before a press conference.
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris speaks to supporters before a press conference. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Update 11:41 a.m. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez says he's forming 2016 Senate exploratory group 

A San Diego County assemblyman says he's forming an exploratory committee as he considers entering California's 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Republican Rocky Chavez of Oceanside said last month he was weighing a possible run for the seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer.

Formation of the committee, announced by the two-term legislator this week, is an incremental step toward a possible candidacy.

Democrats are expected to hold the seat in a state where the party controls every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature.

Chavez has not filed paperwork with federal regulators formally establishing the group. A person who spends money to consider a run for office does not have to register as a candidate, providing that contributions or expenditures do not exceed $5,000.

7:47 a.m. California voters open to host of 2016 Senate hopefuls, poll says

There is one established candidate so far in California's 2016 U.S. Senate race: state Attorney General Kamala Harris. Beyond that, not much is certain.

That's the finding of an independent Field Poll released Wednesday that says voters are open to considering a wide range of possible candidates for the seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer when her term ends.

The name that landed at the top of the list — narrowly — is someone who has given no indication she's interested in the seat. According to the survey, 49 percent of likely voters said they would be inclined to support Condoleezza Rice, a Republican who served as secretary of State under the George W. Bush administration.

Next was Harris, who notched 46 percent, followed by a cluster of fellow Democrats.

At this early stage, the poll suggested that the race was wide open.

Beyond the top choices, "large proportions also say they are inclined to support a number of other potential candidates were they to enter the race," the survey said in a statement.

The poll of nearly 1,000 voters conducted Jan. 26 through Feb. 16 says 39 percent would be inclined to support Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is considering running for the seat.

Thirty-five percent gave a thumbs-up to former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, another possible contender, but nearly half say they would not be inclined to support him.

The former mayor was a favorite among Hispanics, but Sanchez and Harris were also viewed favorably among Latinos, according to the poll.

Two other members of Congress, Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier and John Garamendi, each picked up 36 percent favorable support.

Democratic voters largely sided with Democrats; Republican voters with potential GOP candidates.

The telephone poll was conducted by reading a list of nearly 20 names and asking respondents if they would or would not be inclined to vote for that person. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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