AUGUSTA – Poll results released Wednesday show Republican Paul LePage leading Maine’s race for governor with support from 43 percent of likely voters, an increase of 5 percentage points from a poll done a month ago.

LePage leads Democrat Libby Mitchell, who got 29 percent in the poll; independent Eliot Cutler, at 11 percent; independent Shawn Moody, 5 percent; and independent Kevin Scott, 1 percent, according to results released by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C.

A previous poll released by a different firm, Rasmussen Reports, had LePage at 38 percent in August, followed by Mitchell at 30 percent and Cutler at 16 percent.

“While Maine does have a peculiar history of independent governors and anti-establishment politics, you know things are bad for Democrats when this pretty reliably blue state in most other recent cycles is looking bad for the party at the gubernatorial level,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a prepared statement.

The firm surveyed 1,468 likely Maine voters from Sept. 2 to 6. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

The company was not paid by any campaign to poll in Maine. It solicited nominations on its blog for where it should poll next, and Maine finished in the top two last week, said Tom Jensen, spokesman for the firm.

Public Policy Polling, which has worked for Democrats, targets people who have voted in one of the last three general elections. It polls by automated phone call, requiring participants to push buttons to record their answers.

The poll was released as the Democratic Governors Association began running an ad that criticizes LePage for his stance on energy.

It shows scenic images of Maine, then dramatically superimposes a nuclear power plant in one scene and an oil rig in another, citing LePage’s support of nuclear power and oil drilling off the Maine coast.

“And he’d make the state Department of Environmental Protection friendlier to the developers and polluters,” a female announcer says near the end of the 30-second spot. “Tell Paul LePage his pro-nuke, pro-drilling policies are wrong for Maine.”

It’s no accident that the Democratic Governors Association began attacking LePage as his poll numbers increased, said Brent Littlefield, political consultant for LePage.

“With poll numbers like this, we expect to see more of that in the future,” he said.

David Loughran, spokesman for Mitchell, said the poll showed that it’s a two-person contest between LePage and Mitchell.

“I’m confident that, throughout the fall, the more voters learn about Libby and the more they learn about LePage, they’ll cast their votes for Libby in the only poll that matters,” he said.

Cutler’s campaign spokesman, Ted O’Meara, said the poll doesn’t reflect what they are seeing in internal polls. They continue to see LePage and Mitchell slip as Cutler gains.

“(Cutler’s) name recognition is still an issue for us,” O’Meara said. “We started at zero and we’ve made great improvements, but we’ve still got a ways to go.”

The Republican Governors Association began an ad campaign of its own Wednesday, touting LePage’s difficult childhood and fiscal conservatism.

The ad describes LePage’s life story and his achievements as mayor of Waterville and general manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage. It said, “That’s the kind of leader we need to clean up Augusta, so every Mainer can achieve their dreams.”

The Republican Governors Association filed an independent expenditure report with Maine’s ethics commission Tuesday for $38,000.

The governors associations are national groups that do not participate in every gubernatorial race in the country. Typically, they spend money only in close races.

Jensen, of Public Policy Polling, said the firm was the most accurate pollster that tracked Maine’s gay-marriage repeal vote in November.

The final poll released by the firm indicated that the law would be repealed by a 51-47 percent vote, with 2 percent undecided. The actual vote was 53-47 percent in favor of repealing the law.

Jensen said the firm probably won’t poll again in the Maine governor’s race unless the gap narrows. “This was not as close as we expected it to be,” he said.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

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