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Condoleezza Rice tops California voters’ wish list to replace Barbara Boxer

LOS ANGELES — California’s U.S. Senate race next year is wide open.

That’s the finding of an independent Field Poll released Wednesday that says voters are open to considering a wide range of possible candidates for the seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer when her term ends.

The name that landed at the top of the list — narrowly — is someone who isn’t interested in the seat. According to the survey, 49 percent of likely voters said they would be inclined to support Condoleezza Rice, a Republican who served as secretary of State under the George W. Bush administration. She’s a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Rice “is not considering a run for the Senate. She is happy at Stanford and plans to remain a professor,” said her chief of staff, Georgia Godfrey.

Next in line was state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the one established candidate, who notched 46 percent. A cluster of fellow Democrats followed.

Beyond the top choices, “large proportions also say they are inclined to support a number of other potential candidates were they to enter the race,” the survey said in a statement.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday, Harris said she had “no moral objection” to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, echoing similar comments she made last year. She added that special care will be needed to assess the effects on children and public safety.

Harris said she has been studying the effects in Colorado and Washington state, where recreational use is legal. She told the newspaper that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in California is inevitable.

The poll of nearly 1,000 voters conducted Jan. 26 through Feb. 16 says 39 percent would be inclined to support Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is considering running for the seat.

Thirty-five percent gave a thumbs-up to former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, another possible contender, but nearly half say they would not be inclined to support him.

The former mayor was a favorite among Hispanics, but Sanchez and Harris were also viewed favorably among Latinos, according to the poll.

Two other members of Congress, Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier and John Garamendi, each picked up 36 percent favorable support.

Twenty percent said they would be inclined to support state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, a Republican who said this week he is opening an exploratory committee to assess a possible run. But nearly half said they were not inclined to support him.

Democratic voters largely sided with Democrats; Republican voters with potential GOP candidates.

The telephone poll was conducted by reading a list of nearly 20 names and asking respondents if they would or would not be inclined to vote for that person. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.