Draft Deborah?

Deborah Ortiz could take Steve Cohn’s City Council seat from him, if she actually wanted it.

Ortiz has been out of public office for four years, but a poll circulating right now shows that the former state senator (and former state Assembly member and former Sacramento City council member) would just edge out Cohn in a hypothetical contest for his District 3 council seat. At different points in the poll, Ortiz and Cohn were tied at 34 percent each, or Ortiz led by one percentage point. About 20 percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.

Cohn has represented the area, including East Sac, Sacramento State and big parts of Midtown, since 1994. He hasn’t had a serious opponent since, well, 1994. Of course, Ortiz hasn’t actually said she’s interested in the seat, yet. And it’s not yet clear who commissioned the poll. No one is claiming it, but insiders say it’s part of a “draft Deborah” effort by some Ortiz supporters—or Cohn opponents, depending on who you ask.

Ortiz declined to comment about any of this. But there’s a rumor she’s been huddling with supporters and could make a decision pretty soon.

Ortiz termed out of the state Senate in 2006, and she’s now vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood’s Mar Monte region.

The polling firm, EMC Research, also asked about other possible challengers, including building contractor and former mayoral candidate Shawn Eldredge, who got 4 to 6 percent support, depending on at which point in the survey his support was tallied, and real-estate agent Chris Little, who got 2 to 5 percent.

Bear in mind, the telephone survey included just 302 likely voters and had a 5.6 percent margin of error. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed had not yet heard of Eldredge or Little, something Eldredge plans to remedy.

“I am still the guy,” he told Bites. “No one has the passion for this city’s best interest—over self-interest and partisan politics—that I do.”

And Ortiz might look at these numbers and decide she doesn’t

want the fight. Been there, done that. Still, some of the poll questions suggest a possible point of attack against Cohn in this very, very hypothetical race. For example, there’s this question: “Some people say that Steve Cohn … has lost his independent voice and simply follows whatever the Mayor wants.”

Alternately: “Some people say … she will be a strong, independent voice that can stand up to the Mayor and petty city politics to get things done for our neighborhoods.” (Bites posted more from the poll on SN&R’s news blog, Snog, at www.newsreview.com/snog.)

What’s with the Kevin Johnson references? Well, one theory is that Ortiz is looking at a mayoral bid in 2012, and coming back to the council is just step one of a political two-step into the top job.

Remember that Ortiz squared off against then-candidate Johnson during the ’08 election, when she joined with SMUD board member Genevieve Shiroma and former mayor Anne Rudin in asking police to take a closer look at allegations Johnson had behaved inappropriately toward a student at Sacramento High School.

And consider the 3rd District went for Fargo over Johnson in the 2008 mayoral election. In this survey, 44 percent had a favorable opinion of Johnson, and 43 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Ortiz isn’t exactly the anti-Kevin Johnson. But if she wants back into office, it might be a good role to try on.