A 7-month-old poll surfacing this week sees the race for District 4 county supervisor “essentially tied,” but gives Republican Bonnie Dumanis a slight edge over Democratic rivals Nathan Fletcher and Lori Saldaña in the June primary.
Obtained by Times of San Diego, the survey of 403 “active San Diego city voters” is described in a memo dated Sept. 6 — a day after former District Attorney Dumanis filed for the 2018 race. Its authenticity was confirmed by a Republican source. (Only page 1 was acquired.)
But the “confidential” poll, by GOP-connected Competitive Edge Research and Communication Inc., is seen as an attack on Fletcher, the former state Assembly member expected to pick up the county party’s endorsement Tuesday.
In a memo to Brian Pepin, executive director of the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, Competitive Edge CEO John Nienstedt concludes that “Fletcher drops to third in the final ballot test” after candidate biographies were “tested” on respondents.
A first survey taken in mid-February found 24 percent of voters “definitely” or “probably” backing Dumanis, ahead of the 23 percent for Fletcher and 20 percent for Saldaña (with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points).
But a survey of “informed” voters found Dumanis with 26 percent, Saldaña with 24 percent and Fletcher with 16 percent.
“Republicans are trying to undermine Nathan Fletcher because he’s the strongest Democrat and the only candidate who can defeat Republican Dumanis,” said Fletcher consultant Dan Rottenstreich.
He said Democrats “won’t buy for a minute the GOP’s phony push poll; they’re solidly behind Nathan Fletcher for supervisor and are fired up to bring Democratic change to county government.”
Also listed in the survey are attorney Omar Passons, an actual candidate, and Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos, who isn’t. The officially nonpartisan race will fill a vacancy created when Supervisor Ron Roberts is termed out.
Contacted by Times of San Diego, Pepin of the Lincoln Club said he had no comment. Pollster Nienstedt did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite its reputation as a polling firm for Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other local Republicans, San Diego-based Competitive Edge is “probably the most accurate polling organization in town,” says political scientist Carl Luna of San Diego Mesa College.
“John runs a tight ship over there,” Luna said via email. “I’ve never made money betting against them.”
Luna said county Democratic leadership might have jumped the gun in moving to endorse Fletcher before assessing his relative strengths and weaknesses.
“He may never be able to shake the carpet-bagger persona his party-switches have generated,” Luna said. “Might have worked better for the Democrat leadership to have either waited for the primary results (while working to keep Dumanis from getting 50% + 1) and weigh in for the general OR getting the party prior to the primary to rally behind 1 candidate (Saldaña or Fletcher bows out.)”
Luna said that if Fletcher takes second behind Dumanis in the June primary but loses in November, “the party leadership could be blasted for endorsing a loser. If Saldaña comes in second out of the primary but loses in November, the party leadership could be blasted for not supporting a potential winner.”
But he says the poll — rumored but not disclosed until now — shows the GOP has a problem because Democrats are favored 2-to-1 overall going into next year.
“But a lot can change between now and June,” Luna said, “so the question becomes how much are GOP donors willing to spend to make Dumanis look good and the Democrats look bad to the voters between now and then.”
That will be tested with a website registered by Dumanis campaign adviser Jason Roe.
The sarcastic site — iheartnathan.com — features cartoon depictions of Fletcher. It mocks his conversion from Republican to Democrat and links to articles critical of him, some from the left.
“And now Nathan is back — his star rising again with the help of a pliant Democratic Establishment who is passing over a Latina and two African Americans who have been loyal Democrats their entire lives,” the site says.
The local Republican Party tweeted out the link Monday.
— San Diego County GOP (@RPSDC) September 18, 2017
— Tony Krvaric (@TonyKrvaric) September 18, 2017