Republican Meg Whitman has opened up a 7-point lead over Democrat Jerry Brown in their closely watched race for California governor, the latest poll of likely voters showed on Friday.
Whitman, a billionaire former eBay chief executive who has already poured more than $100 million into the campaign, leads Brown, a former governor, by 47 percent to 40 percent ahead of the November 2 election, according to the SurveyUSA sampling.
That reflects a 3-point gain by Whitman, who is making her first run for public office, from the last SurveyUSA poll conducted in August.
Whitman hopes to capitalize on her outsider status and deep pockets to beat Brown, currently state attorney general, in what is considered a reliably Democratic state.
The next governor will inherit a state struggling with double-digit unemployment, a budget deficit of tens of billions of dollars and an unpopular, often gridlocked Legislature.
California, the nation's most populous state, has a huge economy and is home to the Silicon Valley technology hub.
The SurveyUSA poll, which sampled 569 likely California voters on Tuesday and Wednesday, found incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer in a statistical dead heat with Republican Carly Fiorina, a former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, in their U.S. Senate race.
Boxer, a powerful liberal voice in Washington and strong supporter of President Obama's agenda, is seeking her fourth term in the Senate. She is in a tough re-election fight in a year when high unemployment and fears about the economy have left Democrats and incumbents vulnerable.
The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, also showed that opposition had grown among California voters to a ballot initiative that would legalize possession and sale of marijuana.
While previous SurveyUSA polls showed the measure, known as Proposition 19, passing by a margin of 10 percentage points, the September survey showed the split at 47 percent in favor, versus 43 percent opposed. (Reuters)