Brown takes big lead in California governor race

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:47pm EDT

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown makes a point during his appearance at the Women's Conference 2010 in Long Beach, California, October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown makes a point during his appearance at the Women's Conference 2010 in Long Beach, California, October 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Democrat Jerry Brown has opened a 10-point lead on Republican Meg Whitman as women, Latinos and other groups line up behind his bid to return to the state governorship, a Field Poll showed on Thursday.

Brown, the idiosyncratic veteran politician facing off against Whitman, a billionaire former eBay chief executive, has also shored up support among swing constituencies of nonpartisan voters and Los Angeles-area Californians.

He now leads 49 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, with 12 percent undecided before the election next Tuesday, the poll found. In September, Field found the candidates tied at 41 percent, while other organizations have since found Brown edging ahead.

California voters are up in arms about double-digit unemployment, a state budget gap expected to re-emerge soon because of overly optimistic assumptions in the recently passed spending plan, and legislative gridlock in the most populous U.S. state.

Brown has offered himself up as the insider's outsider, able to take advantage of long-established relationships but take a fresh approach, while Whitman promises to use her business experience and independence to focus on creating jobs, righting state finances and improving education.

Both candidates have criticized each other heavily. But Whitman's unfavorable rating has risen highest and fastest, while voters are divided on Brown.

Whitman, in her novice run for political office, has contributed more than $140 million to her campaign, but an early lead has slipped away. Her support has faded in the past month, while Brown's has risen, Field found.

That matches a trend in other polls, showing Brown breaking away from Whitman.

Women now prefer Brown by a 16-point margin and Latinos prefer him by more than 2-to-1, while Brown leads in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Whitman leads in Southern California outside Los Angeles and among inland county voters.

Field contacted 1,501 registered voters, including 1,092 likely to vote in next week's election, between October 14 and 26. The margin of error was 3.2 percent.

(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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