CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chair of the West Virginia Republican Party was calling the Mountain State’s gubernatorial race “essentially tied” just more than seven weeks ahead of the November general election.

“A barn burner” is how Conrad Lucas described the state of the race for governor with Democrat Jim Justice leading Republican and Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer, 06) 44 percent to 42 percent with a margin of error of +/- four percent, according to a poll Just Win Strategies conducted for the Party.

“What we see at this point is folks are tuning in and the race is tightening,” Lucas said.

In the poll with a sample size of 600, the rest of the gubernatorial field broke down like this: three percent for Charlotte Pritt with the Mountain Party, two percent for the Constitution Party’s Phil Hudok, two percent for Libertarian David Moran and seven percent undecided.

Just Win Strategies out of Washington, D.C. has conducted polls for the West Virginia GOP in past election years. A polling memo, based on the agency’s work, was released Monday.

“We would expect criticism from those who don’t want to believe the actual numbers as they are,” Lucas said in defense of the poll the GOP financed. Accurate data, he said, was needed.

On MetroNews “Talkline,” Lucas outright dismissed the latest results of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll from Repass Research, conducted in August, which put Justice at 46 percent to Cole’s 32 percent, with eight percent for Charlotte Pritt, the Mountain Party gubernatorial nominee and five percent for Libertarian David Moran.

“We don’t factor that one into anything,” Lucas said of the poll.

In the GOP poll conducted on Sept. 8th and 10th, 37 percent of likely voters questioned said they identified most with the Republican Party compared with 32 percent for the Democratic Party and 31 percent identifying as independent or with another political party.

“Every person, be they Republican or Democrat, is going to say that the race is going to hinge on turnout and it’s going to hinge on intensity,” Lucas said. “We see folks much more excited for the Republican ticket than the Democrats are this year, so we feel very good about where we are right now.”

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, will also be a factor after polling at 57 percent in West Virginia in the Just Win Strategies poll. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, was at 30 percent with Libertarian Gary Johnson at four percent and nine percent undecided.

“I think that we’ll see Donald Trump hit record-breaking numbers here and it’s going to be, not just from Republican support, but from a lot of support from Democrats and independents as well,” Lucas said.

Oct. 18 is the deadline to register to vote or update voter information in West Virginia ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Early voting runs from Oct. 26 to Nov. 5.

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