Runoff For Mayor Very Likely, But Between Who?

On September 5, 2017 KRQE reported the first poll of any news agency in the 2017 Mayor’s race.

Since mid-July, political insiders and pundits have claimed private campaign organization polls had Tim Keller with a comfortable lead with his poll numbers in the high twenties or low 30s, while Dan Lewis and Brian Colon were running neck and neck for second place, with all the other candidates having very low single digit poll numbers.

Since mid-July, inside sources have also said campaign polls showed that there was high “undecided” number of voters, as much as 43%.

The KRQE poll appears to have confirmed what has been going on since mid-July, however some of the candidates did not perform as well as what was expected, especially Dan Lewis and Tim Keller.

The consistent take on the race has been that it will be Keller and Lewis in a runoff, but the poll makes that face off cloudy at best.

The poll was one of 500 likely registered voters conducted by automatic phone calls with a margin of error which reduces accuracy.

The poll was also taken before any of the candidates began to spend on radio and tv commercials.

KRQE reported each of the candidates polled as follows:

Democrat State Auditor Tim Keller – 22%
Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis – 11%
Former Democratic Party Chair Brian Colon – 10%
Republican County Commissioner Wayne Johnson – 8%
Independent retired APD Police Officer Michell Garcia-Holmes – 6%
Republican businessman Ricardo Chavez – 5%
Democrat Gus Pedrotty – 1%
Independent Susan Wheeler Diechel – 1%

The biggest winner in the KRQE poll was “undecided” at 36%.

Based on the numbers, the KRQE poll is probably more a reflection of name recognition than public support which would explain why Democrat State Auditor Tim Keller, Republican Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis and former Democratic Party Chair Brian Colon and Republican County Commissioner Wayne Johnson are the top four tier candidates.

Despite all the Mayoral forums held, the local press has been somewhat dormant on covering the race and coverage has been very skimpy.

At least three televised debates have been scheduled.

A 36% for undecided voters should not be a major surprise seeing as very little has happened when it comes to the candidates spending major amounts of money on campaign TV and radio commercials and printed materials except for Brian Colon.

In the KRQE report, UNM Political Science Professor Gabe Sanchez suggested that Tim Keller, because Keller registered 22% in the poll, which was twice as much as each of the next two candidates, that it is “plausible” for Keller to get to 50% and avoid a runoff.

Expecting that there will be no runoff is very wishful thinking given the numbers presented and the fact that the poll was taken before political commercials had begun to run.

Many political pundits and insiders were expecting Mr. Keller to have at least 30% or more in the KRQE poll given his high name recognition as State Auditor, his very considerable support within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, his endorsements and the substantial union contributions to his measured finance committee or PAC.

Had Keller done better at say 35% in the poll and not the 22% he garnered, avoiding a runoff would have been plausible.

Based on the KRQE poll, it is likely Tim Keller will be in the runoff but it is not likely he will get more than 50% to avoid a runoff.

Republicans Dan Lewis at 11%, Wayne Johnson at 8% and Ricardo Chavez at 5% are dividing up the conservative Republican vote, with Wayne Johnson increasing his criticism of Lewis and within striking distance of overtaking Dan Lewis and giving Johnson the possibility to reach the runoff.

I suspect the combined 24% of the poll numbers reflected by Lewis, Johnson and Chaves are highly reliable conservative voters, most likely Trump supporters, but if none of these three make it into the runoff, the real question raised is will their voters sit out the runoff election and not vote for any Democrat?

Expect campaign spending on commercials to change dramatically, and it has already started.

Brian Colon ran TV commercials all last week featuring Attorney General Hector Balderas endorsing him, with no other candidate running commercials.

The Balderas endorsement was critical to help Colon solidify the Hispanic vote as well as the more traditional wing of the Democratic Party in order offset the progressive wing of the Democratic party which is supporting Keller.

The Colon commercials began running after the poll was taken and the effect of those commercials is probably not reflected in the KRQE poll.

Tim Keller this week started 15 second commercials, but given the amount of public finance money he has remaining, the ad will get limited play.

Over the next four weeks, a considerable amount of money will be spent on radio, tv, phone banking and door to door canvassing.

According to the August 11, 2017 Campaign Finance Reports, following are the closing balances for each of the candidates available for advertising and their campaigns:

Brian Colon – $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
Michell Garcia Holmes – $33,300
Susan Wheeler Dieshel – $5,955.23
Gus Pedrotty – $3,091

The candidates have no doubt spent and raised more money during the last month and the next fiancé reports are due September 10, 2017.

A wild card is if money will be raised and spent to run highly negative ads against anyone of the four major candidates, which is more likely against the front runner Keller.

As is the case with any election, voter turnout will be critical.

Early voting also starts on September 13, 2017 and the candidates need to double down on media.

The mandatory sick leave initiative will also be on the ballot and just may increase voter turnout, but that will cut both ways as having the potential to increase voter turnout of progressives and conservatives.

A coalition of 27 business organizations has been formed to oppose the mandatory sick leave initiative and has raised over $100,000 to oppose it and you can expect more and an aggressive campaign to defeat it as was done with the “soda tax” in Santa Fe.

From a historical standpoint, municipal elections are very low voter turnout with between 20% and 25%.

The reliable municipal voters tend to be 50 years and older and conservative.

Four years ago, only 19% of eligible voters voted in the lowest voter turnout since 1977.

You can count on negative advertising to be initiated against anyone of the four front runners which will no doubt have an impact on the race because negative advertising works.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.