The June 5 gubernatorial primary will feature Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom in front followed by a photo finish for second, according to a new USC Dornsife/LA Times poll released today.

The poll, which, in a break from previous models, included all 27 candidates for governor, saw Newsom finishing with 21% support, followed by Antonio Villaraigosa with 11%, Republican John Cox with 10%, and the remaining candidates in single figures.

These results create a dead heat for second place heading into the looming primary.

Graphic showing polling results for California Governor race from Los Angels Times data

Just as in past polls though, undecided voters provided the largest group of responses – 39%. According to Phil Willon and Seema Metha, who first reported on the results, 84% of respondents stated they did not watch any of the candidate debates.

This, along with the 4% margin of error, generates plenty of “volatility” in the race to advance to the November general election.

Uncertainty Turns Up Heat in Competition

Despite most votes being cast via mail-in ballots – many of which have already been completed – these poll results show that there is still significant room for jockeying in the two weeks or so before June 5.

Just as in past polls, undecided voters provided the largest group of responses – 39%. In addition, 84% of respondents stated they did not watch any of the candidate debates.

As Willon and Mehta point out, a significant portion of that competition is already underway in very strategic channels.

For example, to improve his chances of facing a Republican in November (which would be an easier challenge for him), Newsom recently ran an ad attacking John Cox as a Republican threat to California’s liberal values. The underlying message of that ad, for those Republicans viewing, communicated that John Cox was the most legitimate Republican challenger to Newsom.

The goal? Boosting Cox’s support past Villaraigosa.

While it’s difficult to say whose messaging will reach and engage the most voters, that messaging, along with grassroots efforts, may well determine who faces off with Newsom come November.

To read the full release from the LA Times, click here: New poll finds a volatile race for second place in California governor’s contest

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