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March 26, 2009

Wide-open race for Tauscher seat?

California state senator Mark DeSaulnier has been busy seeking support from the state's Democratic party establishment as he prepares to run for the suburban Bay Area seat being vacated by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.).

He’s already casting himself as the frontrunner in the race, but one of his potential primary rivals is questioning that assumption.

State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan commissioned a poll showing her narrowly leading DeSaulnier in a crowded election field that includes two unannounced Republican candidates.

The poll shows Buchanan leading DeSaulnier 21 to 18 percent, with Republican San Ramon mayor Abram Wilson at 14 percent and former GOP Assemblyman Guy Houston at 13 percent. 

Neither Republican has yet expressed interest in the race.

Despite DeSaulnier’s experience representing the area in the state legislature, both Democrats have comparable name recognition, according to the poll. Buchanan is recognized by 34 percent of voters, while 31 percent offer an opinion on DeSaulnier.

Buchanan defeated Wilson to win her Assembly seat last year; she had previously served for two decades on the San Ramon Valley School Board.  If she jumped in the race, she would likely receive support and funding from EMILY's List, which backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

The poll, commissioned by the Democratic firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates, was conducted between March 22-23. It surveyed 400 likely district-wide voters, and has a 4.9 percent margin of error.