[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/17/art.megwhitman.0309d.gi.jpg caption="A third straight poll of California voters indicates that Meg Whitman has a slight lead over Jerry Brown in this year's battle for California governor."](CNN) - A third straight poll of California voters indicates that Meg Whitman has a slight lead over Jerry Brown in this year's battle for California governor.
A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California survey released Monday indicates that Whitman's multi-million dollar television commercial campaign has erased her once-unknown status in the Golden State.
If the general election for California governor were held today, 44 percent of registered voters in the state would back Whitman, with 41 percent supporting Brown, according to the poll. Whitman's three point advantage is within the survey's sampling error. Fourteen percent of those questioned say they are undecided.
Whitman also narrowly leads Brown in two other recent surveys, by three points in a Field Poll and five points in a Public Policy Institute of California survey.
Whitman is the billionaire former CEO of eBay who also served as an adviser and surrogate in 2008 for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. Brown is California's attorney general and former two-term governor from 1975-1983.
The Los Angeles Times/USC poll indicates that two-thirds of California voters say that they've seen a political commercial this year and that those ads overwhelmingly belong to Whitman, who has spent $39 million of her own money on her bid for governor. According to the survey, six in 10 Californians said they could identify Whitman.
Brown is facing no serious opposition for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Whitman is battling state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June Republican primary. The survey indicates that Whitman holds a 40 point lead over Poizner.
"The story is the money," Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, told the Los Angeles Times.
"You can't buy the governor's office," adds Schnur. "But you can buy a seat at the table."
California's current governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, is term limited.
According to the poll, former Rep. Tom Campbell has a narrow lead over Carly Fiorina in the battle for the GOP Senate nomination. Twenty-nine percent of Republican voters say they are supporting Campbell in the June 8 primary, with 25 percent backing Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO, who was an adviser and surrogate to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. Nine percent support California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore and one third are undecided.
All three candidates are vying to face off against this November against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is facing a tough fight in her bid this year for a fourth term in office. The survey indicates Boxer topping an unnamed GOP candidate 48 percent to 34 percent, with 11 percent undecided.
The Los Angeles Times/USC poll was conducted March 23 to 30, with 1,515 California registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn