Democrat Tim Keller and Republican Dan Lewis aren't polling as well as insiders expected.
BY PETE DINELLI
On Sept. 5, KRQE reported the first poll in the 2017 mayor’s race, and three days later KOB reported a second. Comparing both polls reveals that the race is indeed heating up and that there is a major shift in the race when it comes to the two front runners.
For many months, political pundits have predicted a runoff between Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis and Democrat State Auditor Tim Keller, but that may not occur. In both polls, Lewis and Keller have not performed as well as predicted.
The KRQE poll was one of 500 likely registered voters conducted by automatic phone calls, with a margin of error of 5 percent which reduces accuracy. The poll was taken before candidates began to spend on radio and TV commercials.
KRQE reported each of the candidates polled as follows:
Democrat State Auditor Tim Keller: 22 percent
Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis: 11 percent
Former Democratic Party Chair Brian Colón: 10 percent
Republican County Commissioner Wayne Johnson: 8 percent
Independent retired APD officer Michell Garcia Holmes: 6 percent
Republican businessman Ricardo Chavez: 5 percent
Democrat Gus Pedrotty: 1 percent
Independent Susan Wheeler Deichsel: 1 percent
The biggest winner in the KRQE poll was “undecided” at 36 percent.
The KOB poll was conducted by Carol Strategies on Sept. 3-5. The poll was one of 513 likely registered voters conducted by automatic phone calls with a margin of error of 4.3 percent.
KOB reported each of the candidates polled as follows:
Democrat State Auditor Tim Keller: 22.6 percent
Former Democratic Party Chair Brian Colón: 19.3 percent
Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis: 7.8 percent
Republican County Commissioner Wayne Johnson: 7.8 percent
Independent retired APD officer Michell Garcia Holmes: 5.8 percent
Republican businessman Ricardo Chavez: 3.5 percent
Democrat Gus Pedrotty: 1.9 percent
Independent Susan Wheeler Deichsel: 1.8 percent
Again, the biggest winner in the KOB poll was “undecided” at 30 percent as compared to 36 percent “undecided” in the KRQE poll reported one day earlier.
The biggest surprise is that Colón has now surged beyond Lewis and Johnson, each having 7.8 percent, with Colón at 19.3 percent, coming in second to front-runner Keller, who polled at 22.6 percent with Colón within the margin of error.
Keller’s number in the KOB poll at 22.6 percent is nearly the same as his KRQE poll number at 22 percent.
SANDERS VERSUS CLINTON FACTIONS WITHIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Based on my observations at forums and attending Democratic functions, Keller’s support predominantly comes from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, represented by Bernie Sanders supporters. Colón’s support comes from the more traditional wing of the Democratic Party, represented by Hillary Clinton supporters and traditional Hispanic Democrats.
Many political pundits suggested Keller had at least 30 percent or more being reflected in private campaign polling given his high name recognition as state auditor, his support within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, his endorsements and the substantial union contributions to his measured finance committee or PAC.
Keller needs to be concerned that he may have peaked with any further increase in his poll numbers stymied by his reduced funding as a “publicly financed” candidate and an inability to get his message out with TV commercials. He’s running a 15-second TV commercial, but it may not get enough play given his scarce financial resources. However, there is a measured finance committee set up for Keller that will be promoting his candidacy and will have at least $100,000 to promote him.
Colón almost doubled his poll numbers in one week going from 10 percent in the KRQE poll to 19 percent in the KOB poll. His increase can be directly correlated to his recent TV commercials featuring popular Attorney General Hector Balderas’ endorsement. This was critical to help Colón solidify the Hispanic vote as well as the more traditional wing of the Democratic Party, which will offset the progressive wing supporting Keller.
TRUMP FACTION AND TRADITIONAL REPUBLICANS
Republicans Lewis, Johnson and Chavez are dividing up the conservative Republican vote, with Johnson increasing his criticism of Lewis. Johnson could easily overtake Lewis and possibly reach the runoff.
Lewis is drawing his support from the more traditional faction of the Republican Party, based upon review of his donors and his anti-crime platform to put repeat offenders in jail and his attacks on the judiciary.
Johnson is far more conservative than Lewis and is drawing significant support from Trump supporters with his opposition to making Albuquerque a sanctuary city. He’s also drawing significant support from the business community with his opposition to the mandatory sick leave initiative.
Chavez remains a viable Republican candidate by self-financing his campaign and spending upwards of $500,000 of his own money and his appeal to Trump supporters.
I suspect the combined poll numbers reflected by Lewis, Johnson and Chaves are highly reliable conservative voters. But if none of these three make it into the runoff, the real question is will their voters sit out the runoff election and not vote for any Democrat?
MANDATORY SICK LEAVE INITIATIVE
As is the case with any election, voter turnout will be critical.
The mandatory sick leave ordinance will also be on the ballot and may increase voter turnout, but that will cut both ways as it has the potential to increase voter turnout of both progressives and conservatives.
A coalition of 27 business organizations has formed to oppose the mandatory sick leave initiative and raised over $100,000. You can expect an aggressive campaign to defeat it as was done with the “soda tax” in Santa Fe.
From a historical standpoint, municipal elections have very low voter turnout — between 20 percent and 25 percent. The reliable municipal voters tend to be 50 years and older and conservative. Four years ago, only 19 percent of eligible voters voted in the lowest voter turnout since 1977.
FINANCING AND NEGATIVE ADVERTISING
Expect large amounts of money spent over the next three weeks on TV and radio ads. According to the Aug. 11 Campaign Finance Reports, the following are the closing balances for each of the candidates:
Brian Colón: $535,579.82
Ricardo Chaves: $373,228
Tim Keller: $227,229.00
Tim Keller Measured Finance Committee: $77,172.00
Wayne Johnson: $207,770
Dan Lewis: $169,600
Michelle Garcia Holmes: $33,300
Susan Wheeler Deichsel: $5,955.23
Gus Pedrotty: $3,091
The candidates have undoubtedly spent and raised more money during the last month. The next finance reports are due on Sunday.
A wild card in the deck is the considerable amount of money sources are saying is being raised and will be spent to run highly negative ads against Keller and Colón. According to sources, negative ads have already been produced against Colón and Keller and will hit the airwaves within a few days.
Even with only three weeks remaining, just about anything can happen.
Although Keller and Colón are emerging as the front-runners and may be in the runoff together. Only time will tell if a Republican gets into the runoff. If Republican voters consolidate their support of one Republican it will give that candidate a better shot at being in the runoff.
Stay tuned for a lively three weeks in Albuquerque politics.
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