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Democrat has lead in tight Virginia governor's race -poll

Terry Mcauliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and also the former chairman of the Hillary Clinton for President comm
Terry Mcauliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and also the former chairman of the Hillary Clinton for President comm

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has a narrow lead over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli a month away from Virginia's election for governor, according to a poll released on Friday.

McAuliffe, a former head of the Democratic National Committee, leads Cuccinelli, a Tea Party favorite, by 42 percent to 35 percent, the poll from the University of Mary Washington's Center for Leadership and Media Studies showed.

Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis got 10 percent backing among likely voters in the November 5 election. Sarvis is a software engineer and lawyer.

"The strong showing by the Libertarian candidate for governor in this survey adds to the challenges all the gubernatorial candidates face as they need to adjust their strategies to a three-way race," Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said in a statement.

The poll was carried out September 25 to 29 among 1,001 likely voters, with a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points.

The race has drawn millions of dollars in contributions from donors outside Virginia. This week, Planned Parenthood said it would spend $1 million on advertising against Cuccinelli, who backed anti-abortion measures that included requiring abortion clinics to meet hospital-style standards.

Virginia is dominated by Republican officeholders and lawmakers, but the state went for Democrat Barack Obama in last year's presidential election.

Cuccinelli has been involved in a scandal involving the chief executive of Star Scientific Inc, Jonnie Williams, who gave gifts to him and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell. Cuccinelli said last month he would give a charity $18,000, the value of gifts he got from Williams. Star Scientific, a nutritional supplements maker, is based in Glen Allen, Va. A company spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

Virginia does not allow its governors to run for re-election.

New Jersey is the only other state with a gubernatorial election in November. Incumbent Republican Chris Christie, seen as a likely presidential candidate in 2016, leads Democratic state Senator Barbara Buono by 19 points, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday.

(Editing by Ian Simpson and Carol Bishopric)

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