ALBANY - Former Rep. Rick Lazio would handily beat Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in a Republican primary for governor, according to a poll released Friday.
The Marist College Poll found 53 percent of Republicans back Lazio while 21 percent support Levy. Twenty-six percent were undecided.
The survey of 775 registered voters is the first conducted since Levy left the Democratic Party for the Republicans on March 19 and declared his candidacy for the GOP nomination for governor. Marist questioned voters on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Lazio led Levy among men and women and all age groups. However, Lazio, of Brightwaters, and Levy, of Bayport, both would be trounced in a contest against Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to the poll. Lazio would lose to Cuomo 61 percent to 30 percent, while Levy would lose 65 percent to 26 percent.
Lazio spokesman Barney Keller said the results show that "the more the voters get to know Steve Levy, the more they reject his liberal policies."
Levy strategist Michael Dawidziak shot back that the Marist poll reveals Lazio's soft support among Republicans.
Dawidziak pointed to a Siena Research Institute poll taken days before Levy entered the race showing Lazio defeating Levy 60 percent to 19 percent, among Republicans. That response, however, was to a question that identified Levy as a Democratic county executive and Lazio as a former Republican congressman. Another question with no political affiliations produced a 45-16 margin between Lazio and Levy.
Marist also found that 66 percent of voters believe Cuomo will help overhaul Albany, while 22 percent said his election wouldn't improve matters.