New poll shows Dem ahead in close race for McHugh House seat

For the first time, attorney Bill Owens (D) leads his two opponents in the race to fill Army Secretary John McHugh's congressional seat in upstate New York.

A new poll from Siena Research Institute showed Owens taking 33 percent of the vote, edging Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) by four points and accountant Doug Hoffman, who holds the Conservative Party line, by 10. In a previous poll, conducted two weeks ago, Scozzafava held a seven-point lead over Owens and a 19-point advantage over Hoffman.

Owens has increased his lead in the eastern part of the district, taking 45 percent in five more rural counties. And Scozzafava, who has a political base in Watertown and three counties along the border with Canada, has seen her vote share there drop by nine points, to 44 percent.

Meanwhile, Hoffman has surged in Oneida and Oswego, at the western end of the district. Hoffman takes 34 percent of the vote in one of the district's most populous areas, narrowly edging Owens by three points. Scozzafava, whose television advertising campaign has been far weaker than either Owens's or Hoffman's, trails with just 21 percent in those counties.

Asked which candidate would do a better job representing the district on seven key issues like the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and taxes, Owens leads Scozzafava in all but healthcare, on which the two candidates tie at 24 percent.

Scozzafava's campaign has acknowledged that it trails in the fundraising race, but maintains it will have the money necessary to compete in the home stretch. Scozzafava was in Washington on Wednesday for two fundraisers with House Republican leaders.

And Scozzafava's campaign quickly dismissed the poll results, recalling that both her opponents have yet to confirm they will attend several candidate forums and town hall meetings.

"As we've always said, polls come and polls go. The only poll we're focused on is Nov. 3, when voters decide who they want representing them in Congress," Scozzafava spokesman Matt Burns said in a statement. "Dede is still the only candidate willing to stand up and speak directly with the people she will represent in Congress."

Owens's campaign said it will not put much stock in the poll either.

"We're grateful for all the support we've received so far and we are optimistic that the momentum behind our campaign will continue between now and Election Day," said Jon Boughtin, Owens's spokesman. "While polls come and go, this latest one demonstrates that voters are responding to Bill’s record on job creation and his plans to continue that work in Congress."

The Siena Research Institute poll was conducted Sunday through Tuesday among 617 voters who said they would likely cast ballots in the Nov. 3 special election. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percent.