With three weeks until Election Day, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin appears poised to keep his seat in the 49th Congressional District, according to a poll released Tuesday.
A San Diego Union-Tribune/10News poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, shows Levin leads his Republican challenger Brian Maryott by 20 percentage points. That’s an eight-point bump from a month ago, when Levin led by 12 percentage points.
Among the 514 likely voters polled, 56 percent said they would vote for Levin, the first-term incumbent, while 36 percent said they favored Maryott. About 7 percent were undecided.
The 49th District — which stretches from northern La Jolla to Dana Point and includes Vista and Camp Pendleton — has transitioned from a Republican stronghold to a purple district amid changing demographics and a growing dislike of President Donald Trump.
Levin won the seat in 2018 with 56 percent of the vote, replacing well-known Republican Darrell Issa, who did not seek re-election.
On Tuesday SurveyUSA pollsters said the latest results show Levin appears “comfortably positioned” to win re-election. They noted Levin leads by 40 percentage points among voters who said they have returned a ballot.
Maryott leads among voters who plan to cast a ballot in person on Election Day, but pollsters said the surge in support on Nov. 3 will likely not be enough to tip the scales.
Because of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 50,000 people and killed 826 across San Diego County, more voters are expected to cast a mail-in ballot than vote in person.
Poll data show this holds true in the 49th District, with nearly 60 percent of voters polled saying they plan to vote by mail. About 18 percent said they will vote in person before the election, and one in five said they will cast a ballot in person on Nov. 3.
Among the registered voters who participated in the poll, about 13 percent have already voted, SurveyUSA said.
Jack Pitney, a Claremont McKenna College political science professor, said the percentage who have already voted is a “pretty substantial number” but not a surprise given concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. He said voters across the country are casting ballots earlier than usual.
He and other political observers say the support for Levin is part of a “blue wave,” driven by demographic changes and growing opposition to Trump.
“A blue wave is building, not just in California but nationwide,” Pitney said Tuesday.
Poll data show Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will likely win the district in November with 56 percent of the votes, a 17-percentage-point lead over Trump. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the district by 7.5 points.
While Levin has championed veterans’ affairs, pushing for legislation focusing on housing and health care for veterans, poll data show Maryott is favored more by polled voters in military households.
Pitney said that is not a surprise. He said active duty service members, particularly those who are White, lean Republican; the poll result has little to do with Levin’s record.
In addition to veterans’ affairs, Levin has taken on other local issues, including creating a task force to devise potential solutions for waste storage at the San Onofre Generating Station. He also supported the Green New Deal and backed impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Maryott, a certified financial planner, has cast the lawmaker as being too liberal for district voters.
According to voter registration data from San Diego and Orange counties, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district for the first time, though not by much.
Of the 444,600 registered voters, 35 percent are Democrats, 34 percent are Republicans and nearly a quarter are independents, meaning they have no party preference.
Federal Election Commission records show Levin’s campaign has out-raised Maryott.
Pitney said he doesn’t expect national Republican or Democratic organizations to invest in the race going forward.
“Levin is in good shape,” he said. “I’d be surprised if (the National Republican Congressional Committee) invested any more in Maryott, because it’s a losing proposition and they have some vulnerable incumbents they have to shore up.”
The poll’s margin of error on all questions averaged about 6.1 percent.