PARKERSBURG - Both Democratic candidates in West Virginia's 1st congressional district say they lead by 8 or 9 points with the primary election two weeks away.
State Sen. Michael Oliverio's poll put him 8 points ahead of incumbent Rep. Alan Mollohan while Mollohan's survey has him 9 points ahead of the Morgantown insurance agent. Both sides were leery of the other's numbers.
"I don't know how they extrapolated those numbers," said Pam Van Horn, Mollohan's campaign manager.
The Mollohan poll by FrederickPolls of Arlington, Va., was done Wednesday and Thursday and surveyed by telephone 400 Democrats and independents who were asked if the election were today, for whom would they vote, Van Horn said.
Forty-five percent said they'll vote for Mollohan, 36 percent were for state Sen. Michael Oliverio and 19 percent were undecided, she said.
"I'm very confident in these numbers," Van Horn said.
"Really," Oliverio spokesman Randy Coleman said. "I'd be interested in knowing how that poll went out."
The Oliverio poll was conducted by Orion Strategies of Charleston on Wednesday and also asked over the phone 400 Democrats who intended to vote in the primary election, asking if they would vote for either Mollohan or Oliverio. The survey found 41 percent for Oliverio, 33 percent for Mollohan and the rest were undecided, Coleman said.
"We wanted an accurate read," he said. "I mean a real accurate read."
Mollohan would not be running negative attack ads if he was leading in the polls, said Curtis Wilkerson of Orion Strategies.
"Incumbents who are ahead don't do that," he said.
Oliverio said he stands by the Orion poll numbers. Oliverio, like Wilkerson, questions why Mollohan would run attack ads if he was the frontrunner.
"It's kind of hard to explain the attack ads he's running against me right now," Oliverio said.
Both sides have been running attack ads.
This may be Mollohan's most difficult campaign since defeating Rep. Harley Staggers Jr. in the redrawn 1st District after the 1990 census and the state lost a congressional seat. Mollohan was first elected in 1982 after his father, Rep. Bob Mollohan, retired,
The primary election is May 11. Six candidates are running for the Republican nomination: the three most visible are David McKinley, Sarah Minear and Mac Warner. The others are Tom Stark of Parkersburg, Patty Levenson of Wheeling and Cindy Hall of Wheeling.
The election for the Republican nomination is as heated as the Democrats'.
Van Horn questioned Oliverio's credibility.
Oliverio, a state senator from Monongalia County, said he was not running for re-election to spend time for his family, then said he was running for Congress, then was untruthful in his advertising against Mollohan, she said.
"I don't know what people expect. That he tell the truth," Van Horn said.