With a runoff coming up on Tuesday, Senate candidate Victor Morales holds a slight lead over Ron Kirk in the race for the Democratic nomination, according to a poll of likely voters.

Morales was backed by 44 percent of likely Democratic voters and Kirk by 37 percent in the poll conducted for The Dallas Morning News by Blum & Weprin Associates Inc. of New York.

The telephone poll of 625 likely voters was conducted Monday through Thursday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Kirk, a former Dallas mayor, said the numbers don't surprise or worry him. He said he has known for months that it would be a close race.

Morales, a teacher, was the 1996 Democratic nominee after beating two incumbent Texas congressmen. He lost to Republican Sen. Phil Gramm, who is retiring.

The winner of next week's runoff will face Attorney General John Cornyn, the Republican nominee, in November.

The poll also showed almost 75 percent of Hispanics surveyed favor Morales, a Mexican-American, and 61 percent of blacks support Kirk, who is black.