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Tight Poll Gives Maher Reason for Optimism, but Costa Confident of Victory

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A new poll indicates that Kingsburg businessman Michael Maher has tightened the race against incumbent Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, in California’s 21st District.

A Trafalgar Group poll of 515 likely voters shows a virtual tie — Costa at 44.2% to Republican Maher’s 43.8%. Twelve percent are undecided in a poll that concluded on Oct. 3.

But, Costa says the poll’s results aren’t worrying him.

“This is a GOP-driven poll so I’m not surprised at all by what it claims,” Costa told GV Wire in an email. “The Cook Report as recently as October 5, and our own polling show confidence in a far different result.  What’s important to know is that I have always delivered for the people of our Valley, and I put my faith in the voters to know that I will continue to fight for the Valley, when they support my return to Congress to represent them for another term.”

Democrats have a 20-point voter registration edge over Republicans, 46%-26%, in the district.

While Trafalgar is considered a “right-leaning” pollster, FiveThirtyEight grades it A- for its accuracy.

But, FiveThirtyEight has a different take on the Costa-Maher race: That polling analysis website predicts Costa has a 97% chance of winning and projects him capturing 58% of the vote.

Maher Is Optimistic

Maher says the Trafalgar poll accurately reflects voter sentiment.

“This poll clearly shows there are a lot of voters, from all parties, who think California and our nation are going in the wrong direction. Jim Costa is responsible for that and why many of those voters want a positive alternative,” Maher texted GV Wire.

Candidates Make Their Pitches

Both candidates told GV Wire why they are the best.

“I know the Central Valley is concerned about so much right now including the economy, women’s rights, immigration, and water.  That’s why I have worked hard to deliver billions for water infrastructure and improvements for our roads, voted for the Inflation Reduction Act and continue to fight for healthcare in rural communities.  I will return to Congress and continue to look out for the people of our Valley,” Costa said.

Costa is running for his 10th term, first elected to Congress in 2004. In the June primary, Costa earned 47% of the vote; Maher took 27% in the top-two system.

“My background and expertise in delivering solutions to complex issues is why I believe voters support my community-first message over partisan rhetoric. I am fighting to deliver a better future not just for my family and my children, but all the children and families here in our valley,” Maher said.

Costa has won his last three general elections handily. After a narrow 2014 victory against Johnny Tacherra — winning by 1.4% — Costa defeated Tacherra in a 2016 rematch by 16 points; defeated Elizabeth Heng in 2018 by 15 points; and Kevin Cookingham in 2020 by 19 points.

The latest campaign figures from the Federal Election Commission (through June 30) show Costa raising $1.5 million and Maher $139,000.

Trafalgar Group Poll CA-21

Poll Respondents by Age

Poll Respondents by Party

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Poll Respondents by Gender

Poll Info

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email