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With Vote Looming, Garamendi Continues to Lead in California Special

With voters in California’s 10th district set to go to the polls for the first round of voting Tuesday in the race to replace former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D), Lt. Gov. John Garamendi appears to have a solid lead in the fight to finish first among Democrats — at least on paper.But with turnout expected to be so minuscule, Garamendi’s standing is no sure thing.A new independent poll on the all-party primary shows Garamendi atop the Democratic field by 9 points, with the leading Republican, attorney David Harmer, finishing second.According to the poll, conducted for KPIX-TV by the automated firm SurveyUSA, Garamendi was preferred by 25 percent of those surveyed. Harmer was next with 22 percent, followed by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D) with 16 percent, state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D) with 12 percent, and Iraq War veteran Anthony Woods (D) with 9 percent.The poll of 555 likely voters was taken Wednesday and Thursday and had a 4.2-point margin of error.Under California law, the dozen candidates in the special election appear together on the Sept. 1 ballot. If no one tops 50 percent, the top vote-getters from each party advance to a Nov. 3 general election.Because Democrats enjoy such a heavy advantage in voter enrollment in the East Bay district, the top Democrat in Tuesday’s voting is almost certain to become Tauscher’s successor.Garamendi, a 30-year veteran of state politics who has held various statewide offices for a dozen years, is far and away the best-known candidate in the race — and his lead in the polls may simply reflect that. But DeSaulnier has the backing of many unions, environmental groups and grass-roots Democratic organizations, and their support could be critical Tuesday. DeSaulnier has also been hitting Garamendi lately for the fact that he does not actually live in the 10th district.Buchanan, the lone woman among the major contenders, also has a talent for putting together strong grass-roots operations, but it appears as if her candidacy has not taken off the way some strategists predicted it would.The only candidate to show any significant movement in the KPIX poll is Woods, who was at 5 percent the last time SurveyUSA polled the voters almost three weeks ago. Woods, a West Point graduate, is best known for challenging the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay men and lesbians serving in the military.

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