Veteran Republican State Sen. Dale M. Volker has a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Kathy Konst in next week's election, according to a poll released Thursday, but his showing has slipped from a poll conducted earlier this month.
The longtime GOP senator from Depew leads Konst, an Erie County legislator, by 50 percent to 39 percent, according to the Siena College Research Institute. In early October, he led by 50 percent to 33 percent. The results show all the undecided voters in the earlier poll breaking to Konst's campaign.
The race has been one of those closely watched across the state in the feverish battle between Republicans and Democrats for control of the State Senate. A Democratic victory in ending seven decades of GOP dominance would give the party control of the Senate, the Assembly and the governor's office.
With resources tight, even though millions are being spent by each side in the various contests statewide, the poll's findings help explain why the Democrats have been pumping less money into the race for the 59th District seat.
In the most recent elections board campaign filings, the Senate Democrats reported only having allocated $6,600 to Konst's campaign to pay for items such as mailings and polls.
Senate Republicans, not leaving anything to chance while Democrats need only two victories to take control, sent $181,000 in the last few weeks to Volker's campaign. They also reported having spent another $188,000 on his behalf.
The Siena poll found that Volker has the backing of three-fourths of Republicans, while Konst has 60 percent of Democratic voters' support. She does lead, however, among independents by 47 percent to 40 percent; that is a flip from earlier in the month, when she had only 28 percent of the independent vote.
If Volker wins, he can thank the eastern portion of the district that spreads wide into Livingston, Ontario and Wyoming counties -- bedrock Republican areas that were carved out for the senator in the last round of redistricting. As evidence of the Republican dominance of those areas, GOP presidential candidate John McCain has a 47 percent to 45 percent lead over Democratic nominee Barack Obama in the district. In another recent poll, Obama was leading McCain by more than 30 points statewide.
The poll found Volker with a 23-point lead over Konst in those eastern counties. In Erie County, however, Volker's lead dips to 3 percentage points.
The poll shows some weakness in Volker's favorability rating among voters. He is viewed favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 35 percent.
"While Sen. Volker has seen the race tighten, he enters the final week of the campaign with a small double-digit lead, outpacing the top of his ticket," said Steve Greenberg, the Siena poll's spokesman, who is a longtime Democratic activist. "He's facing a challenger unknown to 40 percent of voters, and half of those who know her view her unfavorably. Konst has narrowed the gap but still has substantially more ground to close, and very little time to do it."
The Volker-Konst race was one of four races polled by Siena this week. Six others, including other tight contests in the Buffalo area, are being polled now, with results due to be released this weekend.