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Republican gubernatorial candidate again outpolls former LA mayor Villaraigosa

Candidates on stage at the gubernatorial town hall, part of the 26th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit at USC on Jan. 13, 2018.
Candidates on stage at the gubernatorial town hall, part of the 26th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit at USC on Jan. 13, 2018.
Leroy Hamilton/Courtesy of the Empowerment Congress

Republican John Cox once more came in second to California gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, in the latest Public Policy Institute of California survey released late Wednesday.

Results of the phone poll of 1,704 adult residents, including 867 likely voters, conducted March 25 to April 3 come as the primary election campaign to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown enters its final two months. 

Newsom maintained the lead in the PPIC poll, with backing from 26 percent of the likely voters surveyed. Cox followed in second place with 15 percent while former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, came in third place with 13 percent.

While Newsom has a strong lead against Cox, this nonetheless is the second PPIC survey in a row showing the Republican overtaking Villaraigosa. The former mayor first fell behind in a survey taken March 4 to March 13. Back in January, Villaraigosa was second behind Newsom, 21 percent to 23 percent.

Other major candidates are significantly behind the leader in the latest poll: Republican candidate Travis Allen had the backing of 10 percent of likely voters surveyed. Democrat John Chiang drew 7 percent and Democrat Delaine Eastin captured 6 percent.

It's significant that a large portion of likely voters — 22 percent — say they remain undecided in the gubernatorial race, indicating this is still a fluid contest. 

Cox's showing in the PPIC poll is another bit of good news for state Republicans in recent days. GOP candidates are set to advance to June runoffs in special elections for two state Assembly seats in the Los Angeles area.

The large number of Democrats challenging GOP congressional incumbents in Orange County and elsewhere could also provide other Republicans a path to the general election by diluting the Democratic vote.

Still, the Nov. 6 general election is when everything is on the line and California's recent history as a solid blue state is not likely to be easily overturned.

Registered Republicans make up just 25.4 percent of state voters and Democrats 44.6 percent, according to the latest numbers released early this year by the Secretary of State's office.

Voters who chose not to select a party preference make up 25 percent of the statewide voter rolls.