Fourth District Sonoma County Supervisor candidate Deb Fudge released a poll this week showing her with a commanding lead over her nearest rivals, though one-third of voters surveyed did not pick a candidate and Fudge declined to reveal some details of how the poll was conducted.
In the poll, conducted March 16-23, 28 percent of 400 likely voters interviewed said they support Fudge in her quest to replace outgoing Supervisor Mike McGuire; 21 percent supported former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano; and 12 percent supported former Obama administration official James Gore. Pension activist Ken Churchill and part-time teacher Keith Rhinehart each scored 3 percent, with 33 percent undecided.
"I think this reflects my last 18 years of work," said Fudge, a member of the Windsor Town Council and a number of regional organizations, including the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board.
"I have worked hard to change Windsor from an exit on the highway to a town with a heart," she said.
The telephone poll was conducted by San Francisco-based polling firm Tulchin Research, but commissioned by Fudge's campaign at a cost of around $20,000. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Fudge declined, however, to detail the findings or list the questions posed to voters.
She said the pollsters offered respondents both positive and negative information about each candidate, including herself, but she refused to say what information was used.
After the positive information, Fudge's support jumped to 35 percent, Foppiano's dropped to 19 percent, and Gore's was unchanged. Rhinehart's support rose to 6 percent; Churchill's rose to 9 percent; and the undecided contingent dropped to 18percent.
Fudge refused to release the results after the negative information.
Gore quickly dismissed Fudge's poll as "political theater" and attempted to turn the results against her.
"Even in her own internal polling, when her own team controls all the messaging, all the questions ... she still has 70 percent of the people who don't support her," he said.
Gore said he did internal polling several weeks before Fudge's poll and found his support in the 20 to 30 percent range. He declined to release his results, however, saying both his poll and Fudge's were conducted before the recent push of sign posting, campaign ads and precinct walking.
"This race is wide open," he said, "and that is exciting."
Foppiano, however, embraced Fudge's poll, saying it bears out what he and his campaign workers are finding on the ground.
"I don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to introduce myself to the people of the north county and the 4th District. ... People know me from my work as an elected official and business owner," Foppiano said.
The five candidates are vying to replace McGuire, who is stepping aside after one term on the board to seek a state Senate seat being vacated by Santa Rosa Democrat Noreen Evans. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of votes in the June 3 primary, the top two vote-getters will square off in the November general election.
If Fudge's poll is correct, it would be a blow for Gore, who has strongly outpaced his rivals in fundraising and got an early start on posting signs and campaign advertisements.
In the latest campaign finance reports, reporting contributions between Jan. 1 through March 17, Gore led with $83,007 raised, trailed by Fudge at $44,282.75 and Foppiano at $20,135.