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Poll: Democrats Have Competitive Primary in Pennsylvania House Race

There is a competitive Democratic primary to replace Fitzpatrick, above, who is retiring in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

State Rep. Steve Santarsiero leads scientist Saughnessy Naughton in a competitive Democratic primary in Pennsylvania's open 8th District, according to a poll released by Santarsiero's campaign and provided first to CQ Roll Call.  

But the poll finds both Santarsiero and Naughton are largely unknown among the competitive Bucks County-based district's electorate with about six months to go until the primary. The seat is open in 2016 because of the retirement of GOP Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick.  

Santarsiero leads Naughton 36 percent to 21 percent in the primary, according to the survey, which was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and paid for by Santarsiero's campaign. The remainder is undecided.  

Santarsiero, whose state House seat overlaps with about one-tenth of the congressional district, starts the race familiar to 35 percent of the electorate, the poll found. Naughton, who lost a competitive primary in this district in 2014, is known by 28 percent of the electorate.  

The poll surveyed 401 likely Democratic primary voters via live dial phone calls in the district between Oct. 20 and Oct. 22. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.  

With both candidates largely unfamiliar to the electorate, money and organization will matter.  

Santarsiero ended September with $331,000 in the bank, and has the endorsement of a number of local leaders and Democratic parties from the district's population center of lower Bucks County. He also has a number of labor groups — which still carry a large amount of sway in the Keystone State.  

Naughton, on the other hand, had $441,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30. She has the backing of EMILY's List, a group that boosts Democratic women who support abortion rights with fundraising and organizational support.  

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not endorsed either candidate in the race.  

Pennsylvania's 8th District is a top Democratic pick-up opportunity in 2016. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won it by a fraction of a point in 2012, while President Barack Obama won it by a 7-point margin in 2008.  

On the Republican side, there is a primary between former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren and state Rep. Scott Petri.  

Pennsylvania's 8th District is rated a Tilts Republican contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call.  

Related: Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.