CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice has a double-digit lead over state Senate President Bill Cole in the race for governor, according to the MetroNews West Virginia Poll released Friday.

Justice, the Democratic nominee, was favored by 46 percent of those who took part in the poll while the Republican nominee, Cole, received 32 percent. Mountain Party nominee Charlotte Pritt is at 8 percent and Libertarian David Moran at 5 percent. Nine percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.

“As the fall campaign for governor gets underway next week, Jim Justice has a commanding lead over Bill Cole,” Rex Repass CEO of Repass Research and director of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll said. “The critical variable for Cole is marshaling the support of his base, including independents. Cole leads Justice among Republicans by a 62-to-20 percent margin, and among independents by a 35-to-28 percent margin. However, about 20 percent of Republicans are supporting Justice, while only 11 percent of Democrats are supporting Cole.”

Cole campaign spokesman Kent Gates disputed the findings of the poll. He said the race is much closer.

“There were three reputable polls conducted during the same time period with a larger sample size and better methodology that show the race for Governor between around four points. Voters are going to have a choice over the next nine weeks between Bill Cole who has plan to reform government and move our state forward and Jim Justice who wants to protect the good ole’ boy political system that has caused so many of the problems facing West Virginia but allowed them to amass huge wealth while average West Virginians lose jobs and get smaller paychecks,” Gates said.

Justice campaign spokesman Grant Herring also reacted to the poll Friday:

“Jim’s lead will continue to grow once West Virginians learn more about the self-serving agenda of Bill Cole that’s failed the state. Jim is gaining support from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across West Virginia. Working families know that Jim Justice can create jobs and that professional politicians like Senate President Cole only want to help themselves,” Herring said.

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll also found likely voters nearly split on which party should be in control of the state legislature. Forty-three percent said that control should return to the Democrats while 40 percent hoped the Republicans stay in control. A significant portion, 17 percent of those surveyed, said they weren’t sure.

Approval ratings for both the state legislature and U.S. Congress are low. The House of Delegates received a 29 percent approval rating and the state Senate 34 percent. The U.S. House and U.S. Senate had approval ratings of 20 percent each, the poll said.

The move by the legislature to make West Virginia a Right to Work state had more approval in the poll (36 percent) than disagreement (31 percent). Another group of those polled (33 percent) said they neither agreed nor disagreed with the issue.

Ninety-four percent of those polled say they are either very worried or somewhat worried about the state’s economy while support for the public school system is nearly split down the middle with 52 percent in some way satisfied with the system but 47 percent not satisfied.

There’s not a strong majority either way on the issue of consolidating counties. Twenty-six percent of those polled agree it should be done but the same percentage (26) agree it shouldn’t.

All of those polled said they were registered to vote and plan to vote in November. Forty-eight percent of them Democrats and 30 percent Republican.

Interviews for the MetroNews West Virginia Poll were conducted between Aug. 9-28 with a sample of 435 registered, likely voters in the Mountain State. The margin of error is +/- 4.7.

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll will look at issues related to sports in Saturday’s poll.

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