With less than two months until the election, Republican U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth has a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Sean Patrick Maloney, according to an independent poll released Tuesday morning.
In the Siena College poll of 628 likely voters in the newly created 18th Congressional District -- conducted between Sept. 12 and 16 -- Hayworth had 46 percent, Maloney had 33 percent and Larry Weissmann -- the Working Families Party candidate who is no longer in the congressional race -- had 10 percent, with 11 percent still undecided.
"Hayworth, a freshman who defeated a Democratic incumbent by five points in 2010, is seeking her first re-election and is currently in a strong position against a still largely unknown challenger," said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
Name recognition appeared to be a major factor in the results, Greenberg said.
"While Maloney is viewed favorably by more voters than view him unfavorably, a majority of voters, including a majority of Republicans and independents, don't know enough about him to have an opinion," Greenberg said. "A majority of voters say they have seen or heard a Hayworth commercial, while only 18 percent say the same about Maloney. She is well known throughout the district while he is largely unknown to a majority of voters."
Hayworth's campaign said the poll results indicate a backlash among voters from Maloney's "negative" campaigning.
"From the beginning, Congresswoman Hayworth has run a positive campaign focused on her excellent record of service to her community, while Sean Maloney has made the decision to run a negative campaign based on lies and distortions," spokesman Michael Knowles said in a statement. "Now we see the fruit of those efforts: since even the most recent poll, Congresswoman Hayworth's lead has increased by almost 50 percent, into the double digits, with independent voters favoring her over her opponent 2 to 1."
Meanwhile, Maloney's campaign issued a statement Tuesday morning claiming he was "within striking distance" of winning the race, suggesting that because he is likely to gain the Working Families Party's nomination in the November elections that the 10 points that went to Weissmann in the poll would ultimately go to him and close the margin to single digits.
"Just three points behind Congresswoman Hayworth, Sean Patrick Maloney's path to victory this November is as clear as Congresswoman Hayworth's Tea Party votes to end Medicare," Maloney campaign spokeswoman Evangeline George said.
A spokesman for the Working Families Party told Newsday that Wiessman is running for the state Supreme Court and that his name will not appear on the November ballot. He said the party will likely nominate Maloney for the Working Families line during its upcoming judicial convention.
Maloney, a Manhattan attorney who recently relocated to Cold Spring, is making his first run for Congress after winning a five-way primary on June 26. On the campaign trail, he focused on education and job creation. He has been critical of Hayworth's tea party support and conservative views on health care and social issues.
Hayworth, a physician, was elected in 2010, ousting two-term Democrat John Hall and helping Republicans take control of the House. Since then, she has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama's policies, particularly on health care and social issues.
The Siena poll is the first independent snapshot of voter sentiment in the district, which was expanded under redistricting earlier this year to include thousands of new registered voters in Democratic-leaning cities such as Newburgh and Middletown.
Last month, the Democratic House Majority PAC released a partisan poll conducted in late July showing Hayworth leading among likely voters 48 percent to Maloney's 45 percent, which was within the survey's margin of error. This month, Republicans released another poll, conducted in August, showing Hayworth leading, 51 to 42 percent. Seven percent were undecided.
The pollsters said, however, that Maloney has a chance to close the gap before Election Day, but has his work cut out for him in the nationally watched race.
"Maloney has lots of catching up to do in seven weeks -- becoming better known and liked, and providing voters, particularly independents, with a reason to not support Hayworth, which they are currently inclined to do," Greenberg said. "Hayworth has a strong lead but does not hit the "magic 50 percent mark."