SACRAMENTO (CBSLA.com/AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown has little to lose as he faces his Republican challenger in the only gubernatorial debate on the calendar this election season.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports the Democratic incumbent currently enjoys a 16-point lead in the polls and has nearly $23 million in the bank from donors spanning the political spectrum.

A new Field Poll released the same day as the scheduled debate finds Brown with 50 percent support among likely voters compared to 34 percent for Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official. That marks an increase of 2 percentage points in Kashkari’s support since June, The Associated Press reported.

The survey also found that Brown has a large lead with most voting blocs, including a 32-point edge with those who call themselves moderates.

But for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Neel Kashkari, Thursday night’s debate in Sacramento offers an opportunity to introduce himself to voters and prove he is a credible challenger.

Kashkari has struggled to gain attention and money in the face of a powerful incumbent, often turning to social media.

Tonight’s debate topics are expected to include the state’s uneven economic recovery, education, high-speed rail and even the announcement this week that Tesla would build its battery factory in Nevada.

Dan Schnur, a political analyst at USC, Kashkari could could go after the governor on things like the controversial California high speed rail, education and Wednesday’s announcement that Tesla will build its battery factory in Nevada.

“So Kashkari has to be a statesman and a combatant all in one hour,” Schnur said. “On the other hand, he has to challenge Brown, he has to get in his face and force Brown off his game.”

The Field Poll interviewed 467 likely voters from Aug. 14-28. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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