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Poll shows Dems leading Republicans in Democrat-rich New York State

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has the support of one half of likely New York voters in a general election matchup against GOP candidate Marc Molinaro and several minor party candidates, even though a plurality of voters give give him lackluster job performance ratings, a new poll out Monday morning has found.

The Siena College poll puts Cuomo with 50 percent of the vote if the election were held today, compared with 28 percent for Molinaro. Cynthia Nixon, who lost to Cuomo in the recent Democratic Party primary but who is still on the Working Families Party ballot line in the general election, got 10 percent. Three other candidates received a total of 4 percent, and 8 percent of voters are undecided.

The closest contest, in the new poll taken in advance of the Nov. 6 elections, appears to be for state attorney general. Democrat Letitia James, who is presently the New York City public advocate, leads Keith Wofford, a Manhattan attorney and a native of Buffalo, by 50-36 percent. It is the first statewide race in New York featuring two African-American candidates.

In other statewide contests, Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli leads the GOP candidate, Jonathan Trichter, 58-26 percent, for the post that serves as the state’s chief fiscal watchdog and sole trustee of the massive state and local government employees’ retirement system.

Incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has a 61-29 percent lead over Republican Chele Farley, the Siena poll found.

In the governor’s race, Cuomo is, not surprisingly, leading heavily against his opponents in Democrat-dominated New York City. Upstate, however, the picture is far different for the Democratic governor seeking his third term: He has the support of 38 percent of upstate likely voters, compared with 36 percent for Molinaro, 11 percent for Nixon and a combined 7 percent for three other minor party candidates – Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, Larry Sharpe of the Libertarian Party and Stephanie Miner of the newly formed Serve America Movement.

The poll of 701 likely voters, taken Sept. 20-27, has an error rate of 3.9 points.

Cuomo has a strong lead among voters who say he would do a better job than Molinaro on improving public schools, creating jobs and repairing New York’s crumbling infrastructure. After two major corruption trials were held this year that featured convictions of people close to Cuomo and involving some of his signature upstate economic development projects, Cuomo trails Molinaro among voters who believe the Republican would do a better job of addressing Albany’s corruption problems.

The poll found 46 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of Cuomo, the most Siena has found in its polling since Cuomo has been governor. It also found more people have a dim view of the direction New York State is taking, and 58 percent give Cuomo a negative job performance rating. Among upstate voters, 69 percent gave him a negative job performance rating.

In New York, the Democratic voter enrollment edge over Republicans is more than two-to-one.

The Molinaro campaign issued a scathing assessment of Siena’s polling operation, saying the college “is in the tank” for Cuomo. “We aren’t commenting on the specific results of today’s survey, more fundamentally we are questioning the independence of the pollster,’’ the Molinaro campaign said this morning.

At issue, Molinaro said, is Siena’s failure to stick to its schedule – followed the past three statewide campaign cycles – in which a Siena general election poll was issued during early August beginning in 2006. This year, it did not. Had it, Molinaro’s advisors say, it would have revealed the thinking of voters shortly after the corruption conviction of longtime Cuomo insider Joseph Percoco.

Moreover, Molinaro advisors say, Cuomo spent a large portion of the $25 million he unleashed to prop up his image against Nixon in the period after when Siena would have traditionally conducted an early August general election poll.

Molinaro said the Siena poll is a “disservice” to other candidates and voters. "Siena will just cry 'sour grapes,' but it’s not. Republicans understand and are sober regarding the challenges of winning a statewide race in New York. We honor the contest of ideas - win, lose, or draw - because we believe a healthy debate makes for a better and more responsible government,’’ the Molinaro campaign said.

Steve Greenberg, a spokesman for the Siena poll, said the college did not do a general election poll in August because it focused on a Democratic primary poll it took during the contest between Cuomo and Nixon.

"This is not sour grapes. This is not even fruit. This is just absurdity on their part. There is no rational basis for this argument,'' Greenberg said of Molinaro's complaints.

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