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Democratic Poll Shows Tight County Executive's Race

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A poll released by the Erie County Democratic Committee shows Dan Ward trailing Republican County Executive Joel Giambra by just five percentage points. But Republicans say the survey was designed to manipulate public opinion.

County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan proudly revealed poll results Monday, saying the race is a "dead heat." Four hundred fifty responded. Forty two percent support Giambra, 37 percent are in favor of Ward and 12 percent remain undecided. A Washington-based public opinion research firm conducted the poll in September.

Lenihan says they wanted to reveal the results to stop Giambra negative campaign attacks against Ward's record.

"It is our feeling that Joel Giambra is distorting Dan's record, who in 12 years on the Amherst Town Board, has never voted for a tax increase," Lenihan said.

Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis calls it a "push poll" with questions crafted to manipulate public opinion.

"It was designed with seven nasty, nasty questions to drive public opinion to manipulate the results," Davis said. "That's why you hear the political pundits and journalists in Washington say push polling is wrong. That's why pollsters shutter when they find out there has been a push poll done, because it hurts their reputation as pollsters. That's what has been done here and it is an act of political desperation."

Lenihan denies that it was a push poll saying the the first 20 of the 28 questions were standard.

"The re-election question -- "does he deserve re-election?" -- was asked. That was number eleven. (In questions) 12 to 14, we are asking how they feel about his job performance and we don't test any messages until question 21. After that, we fully say those are test questions," Lenihan said.

The Democrats also deny that they released poll results in response to the Republican Party's charge that they violated election law for revealing some poll results in public speeches. Lenihan is now calling on the Republicans to release their polling results. But Davis says information collected is for internal party use.

"I'm not in a position where I want to attempt to manipulate public opinion by releasing a poll," Davis said.

The Democratic poll also found 66 percent said Giambra has not done a good job in bringing new jobs to the area. But at the same time, the poll indicates that Dan Ward is not known by 59 percent of people living in the county.