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PATAKI MAINTAINS 69% APPROVAL; ROSS LEADS CHALLENGERS

Gov. Pataki, preparing to face voters in November in his bid for a second term, continues to ride high with New Yorkers, an independent statewide poll reported Wednesday.

Among registered voters, Pataki's job approval rating is 69 percent, statistically unchanged from a February poll by the Hamden, Conn.-based Quinnipiac College Polling Institute.

The poll found that Lt. Gov. Ross, who switched to the Democrats in September, is maintaining a lead over her rivals for the Democratic nomination to take on Pataki.

But the Republican governor had an almost 2-1 lead over Lt. Gov. Ross, his nearest competitor among the five Democrats vying for the nomination to challenge him.

The poll had Pataki as the favorite of 57 percent of voters to 30 percent for Lt. Gov. Ross. In February, Pataki was leading 59 to 26 percent over her.

Among Democratic voters, Lt. Gov. Ross is the choice of 27 percent for the party's nomination to 16 percent each for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone. Former state Transportation Commissioner James Larocca is favored by 3 percent of Democrats while former state Urban Development Corp. Chairman Richard Kahan was picked by 1 percent.

The telephone poll of 1,183 registered voters was conducted March 17-23 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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