New Binder Poll: Nation and Leno in Tight Race

by Randy Shaw on March 3, 2008

A poll taken last week by David Binder found State Senate District 3 a two-way contest between challengers Joe Nation and Mark Leno, with incumbent Carole Migden trailing badly. Binder, who is San Francisco’s leading pollster and has been busy surveying for Barack Obama, found that Nation led Leno 27-24% on the initial ask, with Migden trailing at 17%. When pro and con statements about the candidates were read, the Leno-Nation numbers reversed, with Migden remaining at 17%. Joe Alioto Veronese was at 7 and 10%, and nearly a quarter of the electorate remains undecided. The poll spells deep trouble for Migden, who is having fundraising problems and still faces possible legal action by the Fair Political Practices Commission for alleged campaign financing violations. The poll raises the question whether Migden should pull out of the race in order for the seat to remain in the hands of a San Francisco progressive from the queer community – an analysis recently advanced by one of the incumbent’s most prominent supporters.

Although David Binder performed the poll for the Leno campaign, his company has a long track record of being San Francisco’s most accurate pollster. His results are quite similar to those that Joe Nation used to justify his recent entry into the race, an action that confirmed Migden’s vulnerability.

The poll numbers, arrived at by polling 500 likely Democratic voters from February 17-21, are great news for Mark Leno.

First, he will have a significant fundraising edge over Nation, so has a greater capacity to win undecided votes.

Second, he is the least known candidate among the leading three, giving him a greater opportunity to broaden his base.

Third, the numbers have to increase pressure on Migden to leave the race to avoid playing the role of spoiler. As it now stands, Migden could potentially divert enough votes from Leno to hand a San Francisco Senate seat held by a member of the city’s queer community to a more conservative straight white man from Marin.

Ironically, Migden supporter Rafael Mandelman lent credence to the need for Migden to leave the race in his letter in the current Bay Area Reporter titled “Leno jeopardizes queer seat.” Relying on Joe Nation’s poll that found Migden leading Leno by 5%, Mandelman, who signed the letter as President of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, accused Leno of putting “a queer seat in jeopardy.”

Mandelman concluded his letter by calling Leno’s action a “serious sin,” and urging him to “give the attacks a rest.”

While Mandelman does not expressly urge Leno to leave the race, the implication is clear. And it is a conclusion that many members of the LGBT community as well as San Francisco voters will draw about this race – only the analysis instead applies to the badly trailing Migden.

Here we have the incumbent in the race unable to secure either money or political support, and this is before all the district’s voters learn the details of her May 2007 reckless driving incident (you can link to the audio of the 911 calls made by fellow drivers here down Interstate 80, and before the FPPC files charges against her for collecting funds for one purpose and spending them for another.

The campaign violation occurred when Migden transferred $100,000 from “Friends of Carole Migden” (the campaign account for her first Senate bid) to her “Re-Elect Senator Carole Migden” account. The funds in that account were illegally placed there by Migden from her previous Assembly campaign account. Acknowledging the violation, Migden sought to remedy the situation by moving $120,000 back to the “Friends” account on November 5, 2007. However, the act of transferring funds from an illegal source is a violation of the law – even if you later return the funds.

Anyone familiar with political trends knows that at this stage of the race, an incumbent with Migden’s poll numbers is in dire political straits. Incumbents do not pick up undecided voters with two other strong candidates in the field, and it seems that, like Rudy Giuliani in Florida, the more voters get to know Migden the less they support her.

Obviously, Migden is not going to leave this race in March. But if she remains far behind in April, those who care about San Francisco and the queer community keeping this Senate seat need to start speaking up. Leno is already trouncing Migden in San Francisco and, with her out of the race, he easily defeats Nation.

Filed under: Archive