Do Californians want to see a Democrat and Republican face-off in the 2018 governor's race?
Three Democrats have already declared they're in -- Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Treasurer John Chiang and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But according to a Field Poll released late Tuesday, voters prefer two possible Republican candidates over most Democrats in the running.
Newsom leads the pack of nine candidates mentioned in the new poll, with 23 percent support. Undeclared but frequently mentioned GOP candidate San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer comes in second in the poll with 16 percent, followed by Republican Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin with 11 percent.
"It is still early," spokesperson for the California GOP Kaitlyn MacGregor said, "but it is exciting to see people support potential Republican candidates."
Left out of the survey is former state schools chief Delaine Eastin, another Democrat who declared her candidacy on November 1 -- after the Field Poll was conducted.
There's a possibility, however, that no Republicans will get enough party support to actually make it to the general election ballot in 2018. It's a scenario we saw play out in California's U.S. Senate race this year -- when two Democrats made it to the November ballot.
That's because California elections have operated under an open primary system since June 2010, when voters passed Prop. 14. Under the rules, the top-two candidates who get the most votes in the primary election may go onto the general election. In heavily-blue California -- where registered Democrats edge out Republicans by nearly 19 percentage points -- it's often two Democrats who continue.
Republicans were represented in the Senate primary race, with a sea of a dozen not-so-prominent candidates. Former California Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim came in third in the primary, with 7.8 percent of the vote.
But leading up to the primary, even GOP strategists were focusing on how to help Loretta Sanchez, a more-conservative Democrat, beat fellow Democrat Kamala Harris. The state party traditionally does not back a candidate until one has been nominated by its supporters -- so, GOP resources leading up to the June primary went toward legislative and congressional seats up for election.
When ABC10 asked voters in Old Sacramento about the senate race the week leading up to the election, Republicans said they would rather not cast a ballot than vote outside their party.
That sentiment was apparently reflected in turnout. More than a million voters decided to not cast a ballot for the state's first senate race in a generation, compared to the number of ballots cast in the presidential race, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
Considering the entire state Republican party now has about half the amount of money in its campaign coffers than leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Newsom (about $3 million compared to $6 million), it's unclear whether in two years the California GOP will have the resources to leverage another win for the state's highest office.
McGregor said it's still too far out from the 2018 Election Day for the party to speculate on how it will spend resources, but she added they do expect a lot of good Republican candidates to get into the field.