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Eliot Spitzer, Scott Stringer in virtual dead heat, amNewYork-News 12 Long Island poll finds

Scott Stringer and Eliot Spitzer are in a

Scott Stringer and Eliot Spitzer are in a virtual dead heat, according to a new amNewYork-News 12 poll. Credit: Pool/James Keivom/New York Daily News, 2013

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer are locked in a virtual dead heat in the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller, according to an amNewYork-News 12 Long Island poll released Thursday.

Spitzer has 46 percent support among Democrats likely to vote in the Sept. 10 primary while Stringer has 43 percent support, the poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland shows. Ten percent of voters were undecided.

"I don't think this is pro-Stringer. This is all anti-Spitzer," pollster Mike Berland said. "I think we're seeing the white voters rejecting Spitzer."

Previously, other polls had shown Spitzer with bigger leads over Stringer, who wasn't and still isn't as well known.

"People had the opportunity to reflect at a greater length on the desirability of having Eliot Spitzer in that job, and are maybe making a second decision," said David Birdsell, dean of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs.

Stringer has a 2-to-1 edge among white voters, 65 percent support compared with Spitzer's 29 percent, the poll shows.

Spitzer still has an advantage among black voters, 59 percent to Stringer's 25 percent. He also is leading among Latino voters, 57 percent to 31 percent.

Berland said minority voters tend to decide on their candidates later in the campaign season.

Stringer spokeswoman Audrey Gelman in a statement said Stringer's gains are indicative of "what we are seeing on the subways and streets. . . . Five years since he left office in disgrace, New Yorkers are being reminded of the mess that Eliot Spitzer left us."

Spitzer spokeswoman Lis Smith said the team feels good about where they stand.

"All along, we've said that the only poll that matters is on Election Day," she said. "We're confident that New Yorkers will choose to elect an independent voice to the comptroller's office."

Stringer had been on the glide path to the comptroller's seat until Spitzer's entry into the race last month. Spitzer, forced to resign from the governor's seat in 2008 in the wake of a prostitution scandal, is funding his campaign with his family's real estate fortune.

Stringer has made Spitzer's scandal and wealth the focus points of attacks against him -- an effective tactic, said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who is not consulting either comptroller candidate.

Stringer also has benefitted from television ads boosting his name recognition and from his institutional ties, experts said.

"You're seeing the political clubs, the unions, the various entities that will sponsor the get-out-the-vote efforts on the 10th beginning to kick into gear and to organize their people," Birdsell said. City Campaign Finance Board records show Spitzer has so far poured $2.5 million of his own cash into his campaign. Stringer, a participant in the public matching funds program, has spent about $850,000.

Super PACs backing Stringer have so far independently spent more than $330,000for a website, a radio ad buy and mailings on his behalf. Stringer has $4.8 million in his campaign war chest while Spitzer has $1.2 million.The poll found 46 percent of likely Democrat voters viewed Spitzer as very or somewhat favorable, 44 percent very or somewhat unfavorable, and just 10 percent had not heard of him or had no opinion. For Stringer, 46 percent had a favorable view and 17 percent unfavorable. More than a third -- 37 percent -- never heard of him or had no opinion.

The poll, conducted from Aug. 22-27, surveyed 600 likely Democratic primary election voters via landline and cellphone and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

A Quinnipiac University poll released later in the day Thursday put the Stringer-Spitzer race at a 46 percent-46 percent tie.

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