Two early campaign polls show Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman leading the race for Congress in the new North Coast district.
But it's less clear who'd get the second spot in a June open primary that sends the top two vote-getters to the November 2012 general election.
"At this early stage, it's a race for second place," said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University.
An internal poll by Huffman found him with 20 percent of the vote, followed by lone Republican Dan Roberts with 18 percent and Democrat Norman Solomon with 7 percent.
About 37 percent were undecided.
Solomon's own campaign poll put Huffman at 16 percent, trailed by Roberts with 12 percent and Solomon with 11 percent. About 46 percent of respondents were undecided.
Both polls were done earlier this month and sampled at least 400 voters in the newly-drawn, Democrat-heavy House district that stretches from Marin County to the Oregon border.
Democrats Susan Adams, Andy Caffrey, William Courtney, Stacey Lawson and Tiffany Renee had 5 percent or less.
The candidates are vying to succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who is leaving next year after 20 years in Congress.
All parties compete in June's open primary, and the top two finishers — regardless of party affiliation — go to the runoff in November.
Huffman and Solomon were predictably upbeat about the results Friday.
"It validates the path we've been on," said Huffman. "I'm going to work harder than ever."
Solomon said his poll shows he's gaining on Huffman.
"It's clear the gap has been closing this fall," Solomon said. "It does seem to be between Jared Huffman and myself."
Petaluma political consultant Brian Sobel, who has donated $2,500 to Huffman's campaign according to federal elections records, said early campaign polls should be taken with a grain of salt.
"Right now these polls mean very little," he said. "It's so far away from decision day."
The large number of undecided voters in both polls indicate they're not ready to commit, Sobel said.
There's still time for other candidates to enter the race, he said.