Faso-Teachout tight as a race can get

John Faso and Zephyr Teachout (photos by Phyllis McCabe)

John Faso and Zephyr Teachout (photos by Phyllis McCabe)

The first independent poll on the race for the 19th Congressional District shows Democrat Zephyr Teachout and Republican John Faso in a virtual dead heat in a rare competitive open-seat House of Representatives election. The Time Warner Cable/Siena College poll released Tuesday shows Faso leading Teachout 43 to 42 percent with 15 percent of voters undecided.

“This is the textbook definition of close,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

Faso of Kinderhook served 18 years in the state Assembly and was minority leader from 1998 to 2002, when he stepped down to run unsuccessfully for state comptroller. In 2006, he lost to Eliot Spitzer in the gubernatorial race. Teachout is a Vermont native, author and Fordham law school professor who has been a leading advocate for limiting the influence of corporate money in politics. In 2014 she ran against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and won 35 percent of the vote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The pair are vying for the House seat being vacated by popular Republican incumbent Chris Gibson, who announced last year that he would not seek a fourth term in office.


The Time Warner/Siena poll was conducted via phone interviews with 678 likely voters in the district between Sept. 20 and 22 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

The poll shows both candidates holding support from exactly 75 percent of their respective parties. Among voters enrolled in a third party or no party, Faso holds a one point advantage. The party line breakdown represents a change from Gibson, who won two elections in the district in large part by making inroads among Democrats and independent voters.

The poll also reflects Teachout’s relatively high profile among Democrats and progressives in the district. Despite having just moved to the district last year, 61 percent of all respondents and 75 percent of Democrats had heard of and formed an opinion of Teachout. Those numbers are nearly equal to Faso’s. The poll found 62 percent of respondents and 67 percent of Republicans had heard of and formed an opinion about the veteran Hudson Valley politician. Overall, Teachout beat Faso 36 to 32 percent in overall favorability rating.

The survey also asked about the presidential race. District-wide, respondents chose Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 38 to 43 percent margin. Among those who planned to vote for a third party, survey respondents were near evenly split with 6 percent supporting Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 5 percent supporting Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Teachout actually outperforms Clinton by four points on the question of whom respondents plan to vote for, while Trump and Faso are even with 43 percent.

The poll also surveyed respondents on attitudes towards major issues, finding that 19th Congressional District voters are generally moderate compared to more liberal or conservative bastions. Gibson, who won a crushing victory over Democrat Sean Eldridge in 2014 by touting his bipartisan efforts and centrist positions, has enthusiastically endorsed Faso. Faso meanwhile has sought to portray Teachout as a leftist ideologue out of step with voters’ middle-of-the-road sensibilities.

The poll found that 61 percent of respondents favor creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while 69 percent believe that climate change is “a real, significant threat to our planet.” Fifty-six percent of those surveyed described themselves as “Second Amendment supporters” while 38 percent said they were gun control supporters. Voters were most evenly split on Obamacare with 50 percent saying they would like to see it repealed and replaced and 46 percent in favor of keeping and improving it. Forty-six percent of respondents said that the federal government should do more to stimulate economic activity while 48 percent favored a smaller role for government and more freedom for business to operate.

Asked which single issue they wanted their next congressperson to work on in Washington, “jobs and the economy” came in first at 31 percent followed closely by “keeping America safe” at 30 percent. Environmental issues came in third with 12 percent followed by health care at 10 percent; “policies concerning gun ownership” at 7 percent; and immigration at 4 percent.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Faso said that he was unsurprised by the results of the poll. In a district which features a near-even split between Democrats and Republicans, Faso said that he had anticipated a close, hard fought race.

“It’s a presidential election year, so you’re going to have a high turnout,” said Faso. “Our focus is on making sure the people who are going to come out to vote are hearing our message.”

Teachout’s campaign did not return a call seeking comment before press time on Wednesday. The 19th Congressional District includes all of Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Schoharie, Otsego, Delaware and Sullivan counties, as well as parts of Dutchess, Rensselaer and Montgomery counties.