ELECTION ’12//ASSEMBLY 18 | Creating an air of inevitability in the weeks after a clear primary win is pretty standard. But, as dozens of campaigns for the California Legislature re-gather for the fall general election, few are trying to add momentum to their primary victory quite like Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta in the 18th Assembly District.
Bonta, who sprinted to an eight point victory in the June primary over Abel Guillen, took the unusual step of releasing the results of a post-election poll. As you might guess, the numbers were quite favorable to Bonta and included the pollster’s generous conclusion: “This is a race that Bonta should win.”

According to the poll paid for by Bonta’s campaign, his lead has swelled to 16 points. An unaided initial question gave Bonta a 43-27 lead over Guillen with 29 percent undecided.

The telephone survey of 404 voters administered by the firm, Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, from June 23-25, included people who listed both a landline and cellphone number on their voter registration form and includes a margin of error of +/-5 percent.

More tellingly, the breakdown of the results are even more decisive and potentially dire for Guillen. Voters in Oakland and Latinos overall are believed to be Guillen’s strongest voting bloc. According to the poll, Bonta has an 18-point lead in Oakland and an 16-point advantage among Latinos. The lop-sided results may have been the impetus for Bonta quickly making the results public.

Bonta also has a 13-point advantage with people who voted for Rhonda Weber, the sole Republican in the primary race and a 24-point lead among supporters of Joel Young, who finished a distant third. The interest in Bonta from voters of Young is not at all surprising since a flood of highly negative mailers trashed the embattled AC Transit board memeber in the final weeks of the campaign. Although, the mailers did not come directly from Guillen’s campaign, the large push against Young came from a special interest group partly funded by labor groups who previously endorsed his campaign.

A second question where voters were read a relatively fair description of both candidates showed Bonta’s lead increased even further. In a head-to-head matchup, Bonta leads 50-28 with 22 percent undecided.

The numbers come with a grain of salt. The survey was paid for by the candidate and would have been kept under wraps if it were any less favorable to Bonta. Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk used a similar gambit in the weeks leading to the primary in the 20th Assembly District by making an internal poll public. That poll also showed him with a comfortable lead, although the final vote detailed a much tighter race.

Nonetheless, political campaigns are all about perception and it’s much easier to build earlier momentum when voters think you’re the candidate on top rather the one on the bottom. This poll shows a steep, uphill climb for Guillen and it doesn’t look good for his chances. That’s why it was commissioned and it’s why it was released.