A spirited TV debate last night revealed a reshaping of the political landscape in the 2005 ABQ mayoral race that insiders have been whispering about. Dem ABQ City Councilor Eric Griego is emerging as the chief rival to the reign of Mayor Marty and Republican Brad Winter is scrambling to stay in the game. Griego, feeling the pressure of the clock and a frustrated left, finally unloaded both barrels on Marty, who needed all his political skills to keep the brash and charging challenger in check and largely succeeded. Winter, even at this late date trying desperately to consolidate the Republican vote, stayed on the hard right, leaving Griego not only free to capture the city's liberal hearts, but also contest for vital undecided middle-of-the road voters.
"Griego gained the most in this one. He is now looking at the 29% Jim Baca got in 97.' He is gradually assuring voters he is not a radical," offered an expert Alligator monitoring the action on KOB-TV. "Brad Winter is in a dangerous phase. He pounded the mayor on public safety and basic services trying to win over the R's, but there are not enough of them available to him. He needs a broader based message. Eric is too left for many of the moderate undecided, but right now he's the only game in town for those against Chavez," added our tuned in Gator.
Still, polling has the Dem mayor right around the magic 40% number, which if he garners Election Night he avoids a run-off and is re-elected. At this point, Griego and Winter are playing for second and a run-off November 15th. David Steele's main role could be to hurt Winter.THEY CAME TO PLAY
Marty was constantly hammered by Griego and Winter for presiding over a "violent" town without enough cops. Marty gamely argued that "crime is going down, not up," but the bloody Albuquerque August in which nine lives were lost to murder, gave his opponents the emotional edge, if not the statistical one.
"Griego and Chavez came to play. Eric was articulate. Brad has improved, but both made a rookie mistake and did not use the time allotted to them. Marty used every second and answered every charge. But Eric did get to him at one point and scored when Marty lost his famous temper. The tension between the two was so thick you could carry it around in a sack,"commented a campaign scarred veteran.
"For sure, Griego made a game of it," a Chavez supporter told me last night. "But resources will decide this campaign and Marty has them." He argued. Griego did not forget those resources as he slammed the Mayor for collecting a million dollar warchest, largely from development interests. "I stand for ordinary Albuquerque families," Griego said emphatically. You could hear them screaming for joy on Nob Hill on that one.
But Marty, in probably his finest moment of the evening, marginalized the skinflint attitudes of Griego and Winter, saying the race was not a choice between providing basic services and amenities such as the zoo. "We can do both," he confidently exclaimed, looking and acting every bit the leader who still has the ability to put this thing over 40%. That mayoral home run into the deep bleachers was buttressed by an authoritative knowledge of all city affairs. Why is this guy not in the U.S. Senate? One wondered.BOTTOM LINE ANALYSIS
Notably absent from last night's clash was any reference to the ABQPAC ethics scandal that has haunted the mayor, another rookie mistake by his opponents who may not now how to handle the hot potato, even though Brad uses it in his TV spots.
The Gator consensus still has the mayor not quite sealing this deal. One of them reiterated the theory that "if Eric does move into second, that could bode well for the mayor as it may signal more R's have left Winter and gone to Marty putting him over the line." Most agreed that Winter's hard-right approach has run its course and his personality as a moderate and unifier is going to have to carry the day. "He needs to target his R's precisely, but if he leaves to Eric the middle that he has appealed to his entire career he is going to finish third," summed up another of my score card keepers. MEDIA NOTESCarla Aragon
KOB-TV gets credit for doing a primetime debate. Carla Aragon remains New Mexico's populist anchor. Her opening question was typical. With all the shocking murders in the news, "what can you do to make ABQ safe?" she queried. Is anything asked more by voters? She stayed on target asking brief, pertinent questions and then getting out of the way.
Despite being a top 50 market, the technical performance was shabby. Microphones not turned up, feedback, and weird camera angles were far too numerous. They would be better off keeping the program in-studio, rather than at a remote location.
The rules of the showdown, ably administered by old pro Tom Joles, kept things moving nicely. This one was a keeper and local broadcasters should use it as a template for the future. (If you missed it, 770 KKOB-AM radio will re-air it next Tuesday at 8 p.m.)
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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