Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli are virtually tied at the beginning of the race for the governor's seat in Virginia, according to a new poll released Wednesday morning.
The Quinnipiac University poll shows McAuliffe with 40 percent to Cuccinelli's 39 percent. One in five voters say they are undecided, according to the poll.
In November, a similar poll showed McAuliffe with 41 percent to Cuccinelli's 37 percent.
"While all three candidates for governor have run statewide previously, voter memories are short and they are little-known to Virginia voters," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a news release.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling dropped out of the race in late 2012, citing a change in the nomination process as his reason for dropping out. There is speculation that Bolling may run as an independent.
In the past, nominees were chosen in a statewide primary, but the 2013 candidates will be chosen at a party convention.
“I reluctantly concluded that the decision to change the method of nomination from a primary to a convention created too many obstacles for us to overcome,” he said at the time. Bolling said he feared the convention system would only divide the state GOP, inhibiting its ability to reach and help Virginia residents.
"It goes without saying that with this relatively low level of voter recognition it will be some time before the shape of the race becomes clear," Brown said. "What is clear is that as an independent Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling faces a pretty stiff uphill climb should he decide to run as an independent."
McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Cuccinelli announced in late 2011 he was running.
McAuliffe ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2009. He lost (in a three-way Democratic primary race that included Brian Moran) to Creigh Deeds, who lost the general election to Gov. Bob McDonnell. McAuliffe was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001-2005. He helped run President Clinton's reelection campaign in 1996 and chaired Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008. He has criss-crossed Virginia in his bid for the governor's seat. He is currently self-employed, as chairman of GreenTech Automotive.
Democrat Sen. Mark Warner, a former governor of Virginia, announced in late November that he won't run again for governor. Virginia is the only state in the country where a governor can only serve one term at a time.
Cuccinelli has nearly $700,000 campaign cash on hand, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. He has spent nearly $300,000 as of June 2012, records show.
Cuccinelli has been attorney general of Virginia since 2010. Previously, he was a state senator representing the 37th District in Fairfax County, from 2002-2010.
Campaign finance records are not available yet for McAuliffe. Media reports say he raised $8 million for his unsuccessful bid in 2009.
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