Poll shows Murphy may be regaining his early lead

Editor's note: The Day corrected the year in which McMahon paid her Greenwich tax bill.

Greenwich — Amid more revelations and accusations Wednesday concerning the two U.S. Senate candidates' personal finances, a new opinion poll showed Democrat Chris Murphy regaining some of his early lead on Republican Linda McMahon, but losing overall popularity.

The latest survey by Public Policy Polling had Murphy ahead of McMahon by 6 points — 48 percent to 42 percent — with a 3.5 percent margin of error.

The polling firm's last survey in August, also done via land line phones, gave Murphy a 4-point edge on McMahon. However, a separate Quinnipiac University poll that month showed McMahon as the race's frontrunner by 3 percentage points.

"The more Connecticut voters learn about (McMahon's) troubling past at the WWE and right-wing Republican policies, the less they like her," said Eli Zupnick, a Murphy campaign spokesman.

McMahon's campaign downplayed the new numbers and pointed to media reports describing Public Policy Polling as a "Democratic-leaning" firm.

"Nothing will change the fact that Chris Murphy is a dishonest, career politician who is continuing to cover up his growing ethics scandal and has no plan to put Connecticut back to work," said McMahon's campaign manager, Corry Bliss.

The new poll also shows Murphy's unfavorable ratings among voters rising to 44 percent from last month's 31 percent. McMahon's unfavorable numbers are about the same: up 1 percent to 49 percent.

Despite Murphy's recent call for a more issues-focused race between now and Nov. 6, the past few weeks have been defined by the candidates' tit-for-tat negative campaign ads, including McMahon's "Connect The Dots" TV spots that suggest Murphy obtained preferential loan treatment from a bank that overlooked his checkered financial history of overdue mortgage and rent bills. He also missed car payments between 1998 and 2005 during his years as a state legislator.

"There's no doubt Murphy's image has taken a hit over the course of this campaign," the new poll concludes. "McMahon's done a good job of hitting Murphy, but she hasn't done anything to prop herself up, and in a race between an unpopular Democratic candidate and an unpopular Republican candidate in a state like Connecticut, the Democrat is going to win."

Also Wednesday, The Day obtained municipal records that show McMahon was once five-months late in paying the second half of her 2002 property taxes on a $1.9 million gated townhouse in Greenwich that she bought for her mother. McMahon paid the unit's $14,510 tax bill in full in January 2003, including $723 in accrued interest.

Murphy's campaign again called McMahon a hypocrite for the missed payment, noting how she and her husband, Vince, were a month-and-a-half late last week paying taxes on their $4.1 million penthouse in a Stamford high-rise.

Earlier this week, the Hartford Courant disclosed how McMahon was late paying property taxes on her own Greenwich home four times between 1984 and 1995.

"It is bizarre that she would base her entire campaign on flimsy attacks against Chris Murphy when she is the one who declared bankruptcy, stiffed her creditors even after making hundreds of millions of dollars, only paid them back when it was politically expedient, and can't seem to pay her property taxes on time on her mansions and luxury apartments," Zupnick said.

In response to the latest disclosure about late taxes, McMahon campaign spokesman Todd Abrajano said:

"If Chris Murphy wants to criticize Linda McMahon for one late property tax payment from 10 years ago on the house she bought for her mother, then so be it, but that doesn't change the fact that Congressman Murphy is hiding documents and refusing to be honest about his swirling ethics scandal."

Earlier in the day, former Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy strolled into Murphy's Rocky Hill campaign headquarters to deliver a petition with more than 1,000 signatures. Organized by McMahon's campaign, the petition calls on Murphy to release several personal documents, including a credit report and details of his missed mortgage payments, to clear up for voters whether he enjoyed any preferential treatment from Webster Bank in July 2008 when he obtained a $43,000 home equity line of credit for his previous house in Cheshire that once briefly faced foreclosure.

Murphy, the current 5th Congressional District representative, was then a member of the House Financial Services Committee. He received $1,350 in campaign contributions that year from Webster's political action committee.

Bank representatives have strongly deny all allegations, and have said the 4.99 percent interest rate on Murphy's credit line was middle-of-the-road.

Moreover, Murphy's campaign claims the petition Healy dropped off had only 306 valid signatures.

j.reindl@theday.com

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