Democrat Thomas Suozzi leads Republican Jack Martins by 7 percentage points in the latest Newsday/Siena College 3rd Congressional District poll — less than half of what the margin was a month ago.
Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive, holds a 47 percent to 40 percent advantage over Martins, a state senator from Old Westbury, in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington). Thirteen percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion.
The poll was conducted with 614 likely voters from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In the previous poll, from Sept. 28 to 29 and Oct. 2 to 5, Suozzi led by 16 points. The shrinking spread is largely attributable to Martins shoring up support from his Republican base: 73 percent of GOP voters now say they will back him, compared with 66 percent in the first poll.
He has also taken a 1 point lead over Suozzi among independent and third-party voters, after trailing by 7 points in the first poll. The 3rd District, in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly eight points, stretches across the North Shore of western Suffolk County, all of Nassau County and a portion of eastern Queens.
“Martins still has an uphill climb, but his road is less steep than it was,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
Martins’ improved numbers match those of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Despite the 3rd District’s Democratic advantage, Trump has pulled within one point of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (44 percent to 43 percent), after trailing by nine points last month.
The new poll was conducted in the days immediately after FBI Director James Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to Congress announcing additional emails had been found that could be relevant to the closed investigation into Clinton’s handling of emails on a private server. The announcement set off a wave of negative headlines for Clinton.
The earlier poll had been conducted days after the heavily watched first presidential debate, in which Trump’s performance was criticized.
Greenberg said the unpredictability of the presidential race in the final days make it difficult to write off any down-ballot candidate trailing by just single digits.
“I would absolutely rather have a 7-point lead than a 7-point deficit at any point of a campaign, and certainly the last week,” Greenberg said. “That said, the top of the ticket is nationally chaotic, and will that have an effect on turnout?”
Both candidates tried to present the poll results as being in their favor.
“Tom’s story of taking on powerful interests, including his own party when necessary, to try to solve the problems his constituents face is resonating with voters,” said Suozzi campaign manager Mike Florio. “People want to send someone to Washington who will battle anyone, and work with anyone, to make their lives better and it’s clear they believe that person is Tom.”
Martins spokesman O’Brien Murray said voters were turning to Martins’ side as they learned more about his record, including state tax cuts and anti-heroin measures.
“Jack Martins is going to win this race even though he has been outspent 5 to 1 over the past month,” Murray said. “Tom Suozzi’s numbers have gone down as Jack Martins’ continue to go up, and we expect that trend has continued in the five days since this poll concluded.”
Despite Martins’ gains, his name recognition remains low. Fifty percent of respondents said they didn’t know him or had no opinion, despite his eight years as Mineola village mayor and six years as state senator. Twenty two percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion of Suozzi, who served eight years as county executive and ran for governor in 2006.
Over the course of the race, Suozzi has spent $1 million more than Martins. The poll found that 44 percent of people had seen or heard a Suozzi campaign commercial, or been contacted by the campaign, compared with 31 percent for Martins.
Jennifer Rojas, a registered Democrat from Centerport, said she’s seen an equal amount of advertising from both candidates — most of it negative rather than focused on their respective records.
“That means I have to go on my prior experience for what they’ve done,” said Rojas, 43, an early-childhood-education consultant.
She said she believes Martins has a good record, but is supporting Suozzi because “he is more aligned with my values and what I want to see from my representative in Washington.”
Karen Ferenzo, a registered Republican from East Hills, said she was likely to vote for Martins, but acknowledged that she has been so focused on the race for the White House — where she strongly supports Trump — that she didn’t know much about either 3rd District candidate.
“I would cross over a line if I thought that person was best,” said Ferenzo, 69, who works in party planning. “But I have to admit that I’ve put all my attention toward the presidential campaign.”