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Who will be California's next governor? New poll shows Newsom leads with 1 in 3 voters undecided

 (Nick Ut / Associated Press)
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

In the race to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown, the largest number of voters in a new statewide poll does not favor a candidate in the race. About 1 in 3 voters said they were undecided, according to the survey by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

Among candidates who have entered the race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a strong lead with 28% of the vote, followed by Republican businessman John Cox with 18%, according to the poll, which was released Wednesday. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa clocks in at 11%, state Treasurer John Chiang at 8% and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin at 3%.

Because the race is far away and public campaigning has not yet started in earnest, the poll could primarily be an indicator of name recognition. The field of candidates is also likely to grow.

Newsom has several natural advantages: He was the first person to enter the race in 2015 and has a large fundraising edge. He has perhaps been the candidate most in the spotlight among the Democrats running, notably for his support of the marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot.

Cox may have benefited from being the lone Republican in that version of the poll.

Pollsters conducted a second version of the poll with five additional potential candidates, none of whom have announced a run for governor in 2018 — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and former state Controller Steve Westly.

Newsom still led the pack to come in at 24%. The two Republicans, Faulconer and Cox, tied at 11% each. Faulconer has said he does not plan to run for governor.

Garcetti, Villaraigosa, Chiang, Steyer, De León, Westly and Eastin all placed in the single digits.

Steyer and Westly have the personal wealth to self-fund a campaign, giving them time to decide whether to enter the race. Westly unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, losing in the Democratic primary to state Treasurer Phil Angelides.

In the 2018 contest, the two candidates who receive the most votes in the June primary will move onto the November general election.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters in California was conducted online in English and Spanish between March 13 and 20, and has a margin of error in either direction of 3.6%.

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