Republican Kate Murray holds a six-point lead over Democrat Madeline Singas in the race for Nassau County district attorney, according to the latest Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll.
Murray, the Hempstead Town supervisor, leads Singas, who serves as acting district attorney, 48 percent to 42 percent, according to a survey of likely Nassau voters. Ten percent were undecided or had no opinion.
The poll, conducted Sept. 23-29, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
"This one is a contest," said Donald P. Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute. "I would certainly characterize it as Murray is ahead, she's far better known . . . but between the surprisingly strong showing of Singas, the fact that she's unknown to many and pulled off these numbers, I would say it's a legitimate race."
The poll indicates Murray -- a longtime figure in Nassau politics who has served as supervisor since 2003 -- has more name recognition. Singas, a prosecutor for the past 24 years, became acting district attorney in January after Kathleen Rice, her Democratic predecessor, was elected to Congress in November.
Fifty-three percent of voters said they did not know Singas or had no opinion of her, compared with 21 percent who were unaware of Murray. Fifty-five percent said they had a favorable opinion of Murray, compared with 31 percent for Singas.
"Almost as many Democrats as Republicans don't know who she [Singas] is," Levy said. "She's got to try to tell her story. . . . Her numbers could go up, her numbers could go down, it depends on who does a better job getting their story out."
Asked to name the top issue the next district attorney should tackle, 47 percent of the respondents said fighting political corruption, 30 percent said curbing heroin-related deaths and 17 percent said promoting and improving the relationship between the police and citizens.
Respondents generally sided with Murray in rating which candidate would be most effective in the position -- 45 percent said Murray would do a better job at effectively managing the district attorney's office, compared with 37 percent for Singas, and 17 percent who had no opinion or did not know.
While Singas' campaign has made an issue of Murray never having served as a criminal prosecutor, 47 percent of voters said Murray would do a better job at prosecuting cases -- 10 points more than Singas.
In addition, the poll found that 53 percent of the respondents said they believe Nassau is headed in the wrong direction, compared with 38 percent who believe the county is on the right track. Despite those numbers, 48 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of County Executive Edward Mangano, compared with 38 percent who have an unfavorable opinion.
In an email, Murray said she was "gratified for the support that Nassau's voters have shown me."
"I am pleased to be leading in the polls as my support continues to grow," Murray wrote. "I look forward to a solid victory on Election Day, and am eager to tackle tough issues like the scourge of heroin."
Singas campaign spokesman Isaac Goldberg said the poll "demonstrates that Madeline's message is truly resonating with Nassau residents who want a prosecutor with over two decades of experience for district attorney, not a politician like Kate Murray . . . who has never prosecuted a single criminal case."
Levy said with the election weeks away on Nov. 3 there is still time for the candidates to sway voters in a county that "has proven, if nothing else, that people will split their ticket and cross party lines."
Nassau has 374,469 registered Democrats and 327,958 Republicans, according to the latest state Board of Elections figures. There are also 10,858 Conservatives, 36,320 members of the Independence Party, 2,408 Working Families Party and 1,468 Green Party voters.
Karen Concepcion, 40, a Stewart Manor mother of three and a registered Republican, said she planned to vote for Murray, because "she's done a good job as supervisor."
"I've called . . . [Town Hall] a couple of times, whenever I've had a problem or questions, and I've always been helped," Concepcion said.
Linda Barksdale, 53, a Hempstead registered Democrat, said she was "leaning more toward Singas," hoping the candidate would address the region's growing drug crisis.
"Things really need to be cleaned up," Barksdale said. "You have parts of town where people don't even want to drive down because they're afraid."