The crucial number in an intriguing private poll, now circulating in Democratic circles, that maps the political landscape for a challenge by Laura Capps to the reelection of Supervisor Das Williams: 44.
That’s the percent of 403 likely voters surveyed in the 1st District who described themselves as “undecided” in a likely matchup between the incumbent and Santa Barbara school board member Capps in the March 2020 election.
Although Capps has not yet declared her candidacy, she has told friends and associates in recent weeks that she expects to announce in August.
The new poll was commissioned by a handful of supporters who have been urging Capps into the race and was conducted early this month by Strategies 360 Research, a big-league political shop based in Seattle. A political professional who worked on the survey shared the research, including the exact language of questions posed, on condition of anonymity in order to discuss proprietary information.
The fact that nearly half of voters are undecided suggests that recent hostilities over the county’s expansive new pot ordinance, fueled by revelations about Das’s cozy relationships with growers, could make him vulnerable. Just a few months ago, Williams looked like a mortal lock for reelection to the seat representing the eastern county — including Montecito, Carpinteria, unincorporated areas, and much of the City of S.B.
Some top-line findings about current voter attitudes:
• Capps led, 32 to 24 percent, when voters were asked who they would support if the election were held today, with the balance undecided.
• Williams is better known in the district, with 62 percent of those surveyed expressing an opinion, compared to 47 percent for Capps; but the ratio of those who view him favorably rather than unfavorably — 38 to 24 percent — is narrower than hers — 34 to 13 percent.
• Voters by a significant ratio are unhappy over how the county has handled legalized marijuana cultivation, a process that Das has led, with 46 percent saying they are “dissatisfied” and only 33 percent describing themselves as “satisfied.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Seven months before the election, an eternity in political time, the private survey results portend a tough and very competitive race in which the quality of the fundamentals of the respective campaigns — how they compete on message, fundraising, and on-the-ground organization — will be pivotal.
Some data points that could be crucial in shaping appeals to the key undecided group:
Gender. The registered electorate of the 1st Districts leans female — 54 to 45 percent, and Laura leads among women surveyed, 38 to 24 percent; however, more men than women are undecided — 52 to 48 percent — with the two statistically tied among men — 25 to 24 percent Das.
Age. Overall, more than two-thirds of registered voters in the district are 50 years old and older, compared to one-third 49 and younger (68 to 32 percent); Capps currently leads among the older voters, 35 to 25 percent, with the poll showing that 60 percent of the undecideds are 50 years or over.
Change. Undecideds said they would prefer a new supervisor to Das’s reelection by a substantially larger margin — 46 to 13 percent — than did the overall universe of voters, who preferred a new representative by a much narrower 36 to 30 percent ratio.
Party. About 49 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 19 percent Republicans, 27 percent decline-to-state independents, and 5 percent third party, which correspond closely to their portion among those who now favor one or the other rival; in the poll, Capps led among Democrats and independents, while the two are running even among the GOP.
In a race between two well-liked liberal Democrats, matching Das’s long history as a progressive on City Council, the Legislature, and the Board of Supervisors against Laura’s community work on education, poverty, and environmental issues, along with her connection to the local political dynasty, many Dems do not look forward to a campaign that tests and strains loyalties.
“I’m gonna do one of the few smart things in my life,” said one high-ranking Democrat, “and stay out of this one.”
FOR THE RECORD: Capps would not confirm she is a candidate but said she is “pleased by broad community encouragement that goes beyond the cannabis issue.” Williams said he won’t “go into a tizzy because of unsubstantiated polling numbers. I like Laura and it would be sad if she tried to run against me.”
More information about the poll is posted at newsmakerswithjr.com. which is where the original version of this post can be found.