A new online poll suggesting that Democrat Janet Mills is leading Republican Shawn Moody by 8 percentage points in the race to be Maine’s next governor came under fire from Moody’s campaign.

The poll of 500 likely voters statewide by Portland-based Pan Atlantic Research was conducted the first week in October. It found that 44.4 percent of respondents would vote or were leaning toward voting for Mills, a Farmington resident and the state’s attorney general, while 35.9 percent said they would vote for Moody, the Gorham businessman and the founder of a chain of auto-body repair shops. The poll has a margin of error of about 4.4 percentage points.

The poll included 500 likely voters and the data were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau data to match the composition of Maine’s historical voting population based on congressional district, age, education, income, and gender, the pollsters said. Respondents were split equally between genders and party affiliation.

Brent Littlefield, a political consultant on the Moody campaign, dismissed the results Monday, saying that Pan Atlantic’s top pollster, Patrick Murphy, and his wife, Victoria Murphy, are registered Democrats and that she is a former chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party. Littlefield also noted that of those polled, 39 percent had four-year college degrees or more compared to 29 percent of Mainers, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

“This does not reflect our numbers internally,” Littlefield wrote, although he refused to provide the campaign’s internal numbers. “It is dangerous for media to report on polls they have not paid for and cannot verify.”

Patrick Murphy defended the poll results. He said his firm is among many that are polling online because it is becoming more difficult to gather polling data from cellphone users. The poll was conducted by email from a pool of respondents who were selected by a third-party vendor.

Murphy, who acknowledged that his wife is a former Maine Democratic Party chairwoman, said the results of the poll also align with three other polls recently released, but he also warned: “Any poll is only a snapshot of one point in time and not a projection of how it will finally end up.”

Scott Ogden, a spokesman for Mills’ campaign, said their internal polls also show a tighter race, although he also refused to release any internal data.

“Our polling continues to demonstrate that this race is – as it always has been – a dead heat between Janet Mills and Shawn Moody,” Ogden said in a statement. “That is why our campaign will take nothing for granted and why we will continue to work hard all the way through election day.”

Kyle Bailey, spokesman for the campaign of independent candidate Terry Hayes, said the poll shows Moody has no path to victory. The poll found that 8 percent of those surveyed were leaning toward Hayes, prompting Bailey to assert that “Terry Hayes can win if fiscally responsible independents, Republicans, third-party voters, and reform-minded Democrats unite to overtake Mills on Election Day.”

Bailey noted that in 1974, independent James Longley surged 30 points that year to beat Democrat George Mitchell, and in 2010 independent Eliot Cutler made a late run and came within 10,000 votes of defeating Paul LePage, who is now nearing the end of his second term in the Blaine House.

The recent Pan Atlantic poll also found that Sen. Angus King was leading his Republican challenger, state Sen. Eric Brakey, by a fairly large margin, with 57 percent saying they would likely vote for King, an independent and former two-term governor, while 29 percent said they would likely voter for Brakey, a resident of Auburn.

In the 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and challenger Jared Golden, a Democratic state representative from Lewiston, appear locked in a dead heat, with 37 percent saying they were likely to vote for Poliquin, while 36.5 percent said they were likely to vote for Golden.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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