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Democratic Poll Shows Competitive Race in California’s 10th District

Michael Eggman is challenging GOP incumbent Jeff Denham for third time

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., is a Democratic target this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., is a Democratic target this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrat Michael Eggman is arguing that he is best positioned to take on Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in California’s 10th District, and his campaign has released an internal poll showing a potentially competitive race between Eggman and the four-term congressman.

But Democratic investor Josh Harder, who is also running, released new polling to make the case that he would be the strongest challenger.

Eggman, a beekeeper and a businessman, is challenging Denham for the third straight time, having lost to him in 2014 and 2016. An internal Eggman poll conducted by Anazlone Liszt Research and shared with Roll Call showed Denham ahead by 4 points in a head-to-head matchup. Forty-five percent of those surveyed backed the incumbent, while 41 percent supported Eggman. Thirteen percent were undecided.

Democrats are targeting the 10th District, which Democrat Hillary Clinton carried by 3 points in 2016 while Denham was besting Eggman by a similar margin. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilts Republican.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also released polling this week that showed Denham leading a “named” Democratic candidate by 3 points, 46 percent to 43 percent. The DCCC declined to disclose which Democratic candidate was named in its poll.

A total of six Democrats qualified for the June 5 primary ballot, including Eggman, Harder, nurse Sue Zwahlen and former Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueño, who has been endorsed by EMILY’s List.

Under California’s open primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. The crowded fields have raised concerns among Democrats that they could be shut out of the November ballot.

Eggman’s poll also tested the incumbent against Harder, who had raised the most money — $927,000 — among the challengers by the end of last year, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Harder ended 2017 with $675,000 in the bank.

The poll showed Harder trailing Denham by 11 points in a head-to-head matchup. Thirty-seven percent of respondents backed Harder, compared to 48 percent who said they would support Denham.

The Eggman poll was conducted March 13-15 by live telephone interviews, 45 percent of which were via cell phone. The interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish. The poll surveyed 400 likely general election voters and 471 likely primary voters. The margin of error was 4.9 percentage points.

Eggman led Denham by 1 point, 46 percent to 45 percent, after respondents were read positive information about Eggman, Denham and Harder. After the positive statements, Harder trailed the incumbent by 7 points, garnering 42 percent to Denham’s 49 percent.

The positive statements for Eggman highlighted his ties to the district, and that he would “fight to level the playing field, and work for more good jobs, affordable health care, and water policies that are fair for the Valley.”

Harder’s positive statement said he was a “true progressive” and supported “Medicare for all” and a $15 minimum wage. Denham’s statement noted his military service and his focus on the economy and job creation.

Respondents were also read negative statements about each of the candidates. After the negative statements, Eggman lead Denham 46 percent to 45 percent. Denham led Harder 47 percent to 42 percent.

The negative statement about Eggman noted he has run for this seat twice and lost, and that he went on to run a super PAC, Red to Blue California, and “now he is running for Congress again to advance his career and make money.”

Harder’s negative statement noted he moved to the district from San Francisco. And the negative statement about Denham tied him to President Donald Trump, and his vote for the GOP health care plan.

Harder said Friday that the energy in the 10th district is on his side, and ready for a change.

“I’m incredibly excited and humbled by the outpouring of support,” Josh Harder in a press release touting his first 2018 fundraising numbers. “The energy in the district is ripe for change and I’m honored to be the choice of so many to defeat Denham.”

He released new fundraising numbers on Friday announcing that he raised more than $350,000 in the first fundraising quarter of 2018, brining his fundraising total to $1.3 million. He has $800,000 in cash on hand. 

Harder’s campaign also released a poll that conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group in mid-February. The campaign declined to release the initial head-to-head polling numbers.

The campaign did release the results after positive and negative statements were read about all of the candidates, which showed Harder closer to Denham than Eggman.

After hearing information on the candidates, Denham led Harder by one point — 47 percent compared to 46 percent. Denham led Eggman 52 percent to 41 percent after positive and negative information was read to respondents.

The poll surveyed 577 likely general election voters via landline and cell phones from Feb. 12 – 15. The poll’s margin of error was 4.1.

Harder’s positive statement highlighted his work creating jobs and teaching at Modesto Junior College and that he is “tired of seeing the Valley get left behind by Washington.” The negative statement on Harder described him as a San Francisco investor who sent jobs overseas and who worked in San Francisco for a venture capital fund that invested in companies that sent American jobs overseas and brought in foreign workers to take American jobs.

The positive statement about Eggman described him as a beekeeper who knows what working families need and who “will fight to protect the Valley’s agriculture and water, expand access to health care, and pass comprehensive immigration reform.” The negative statement said Eggman’s SuperPAC was “collecting big donations from San Francisco liberals in exchange for promises to advance Nancy Pelosi’s agenda” and that he kept thousands of dollars in donations for himself.

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