Things are heating up in the race to replace Republican state Sen. John Pippy.

The D. Raja campaign has an internal poll showing their candidate trouncing state Rep. Mark Mustio of Moon and activist Sue Means of Bethel Park.

That survey of 300 likely Republican primary voters has Raja at 43 percent to Mustio's 22 percent and Means' 11 percent. Nearly one-quarter of respondents, however, say they are undecided in the race.

The poll by Basswood Research of Bethesda, Md., also shows strong favorables for Raja, 55-12, compared with Mustio's 28-4 percent and Means' 11-3 percent.

The polling memo concluded: "Raja is a well known and well liked figure among Allegheny County Republicans. He has a commanding lead in this race. Raja's lead cuts across all segments of the Republican electorate, and among all demographic groupings of age, gender, and education levels.

"In the days ahead, the campaign should prepare for attacks from Mark Mustio, whose candidacy is in a weak position. Those attacks could become very desperate, as Mustio might try to overcome his own liabilities stemming from his votes to raise his own pay, and his embrace of government labor unions."

Meanwhile, the Mustio camp began airing a television ad on Tuesday that should be familiar to those who followed Raja's unsuccessful bid against Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. We're told it hits the Mt. Lebanon businessman on outsourcing jobs to India, a claim he contested during last year's race.

Raja has been on the air with an ad that the illustrious Tim McNulty wrote about last week. We're attempting to track down a copy of the Mustio ad, and will post it as soon as we can.

UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.: A copy of the racially tinged Mustio ad slamming Raja is below. It reuses a 2005 quote from Raja that surfaced in last year's race, with a shot of India's flag and text that reads, "Raja: Still sending our jobs to India."

It concludes by calling Mustio "the only candidate for state Senate creating and protecting jobs for us." 

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