ALBANY — Former DMV commissioner Barbara Fiala has a lot of ground to make up in order to become the Binghamton area’s first Democratic state senator in over a century, a new poll shows.
If the election were held today, only 31 percent of respondents said they would vote for Fiala, compared to 59 percent for Republican Fred Akshar, according to a poll released by Time Warner Cable News and Siena College Monday night. Only 7 percent of those polled have no opinion, meaning Fiala would need to convince a fifth of likely Akshar voters to switch their allegiance.
Fiala was viewed favorably by 32 percent of respondents. Republican Tom Libous, who vacated the seat when he was convicted of a felony two months ago, was viewed positively by 35 percent of the district’s residents in the same poll.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
Akshar has seemingly had the advantage of getting off to a faster start. As of this weekend, his campaign had bought $138,780 worth of television ads, compared to Fiala’s $39,775. Full details of their campaign activity won’t be available until disclosure reports due Friday are released, but Senate Republicans, who in the aggregate had a three-to-one cash-on-hand balance as of July, will likely be able to transfer more money to their candidate than Democrats.
This gap could potentially be narrowed with the aid of the state’s top fundraiser, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has promised to raise $100,000 for Fiala’s campaign. This will help, but if history is any indication, it’s a significant distance from what Democrats need to spend to win a special election in a traditionally Republican upstate district. In 2008, the last time they did so, Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s New York State Democratic Committee spent $1.34 million helping Darrel Aubertine pick up a seat in the North Country.
While the party hasn’t made any ad buys supporting Fiala yet, campaign finance disclosure reports due to be released on Friday will reveal if Cuomo’s party apparatus has spent any money at all so far helping his former Cabinet member. If he doesn’t do more to help monetarily in the race and it turns into the disaster for Democrats it appears to be shaping up to be, he could hear a chorus of the increasingly common complaint that he isn’t doing enough to help progressives in the Senate.
But the poll does suggest that too much visible presence from the governor might prove deleterious to somebody whose candidacy he effectively launched.
The Southern Tier was one of the few upstate bright spots for Cuomo in last year’s election: Broome was one of only eight upstate counties won by the governor, and he came within a half a percentage point of Republican Rob Astorino in the district as a whole.
Since then, however, his appointees — in decisions he “had nothing to do with” — banned hydraulic fracturing and stunned the Southern Tier by not immediately granting them a casino license. Both these decisions were announced the same day, and the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin’s front page the next morning gave the top third of its real estate to a panicked “NO!” in red.
According to Monday’s poll, Cuomo now has a 38 percent favorability rating — a 9 point drop from the one voters gave him last November.
View the full poll on Capital Tonight’s website.