Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's A Triple! ABQ Mayor Marches To Historic Third Term; He Routs Field In Low Turnout, Blow-Out Win; Blasts GOP Foes For Tactics; You Are There 

Chavez Cleans Up
Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez ceded no territory to his overwhelmed foes last night as he marched virtually unopposed through the city and laid claim to a historic third, four year term. It was a victory unprecedented in its scope, featuring geographic and demographic dominance that politicians dream of but rarely realize. Chavez also ended a 30 year curse and became the first mayor to win two terms in a row. The only opposition was a record low turnout that thwarted the 53 year old city native's drive for an unquestionable mandate. (Complete election results here)

The numbers tell the story. Chavez--47.28%, Eric Griego--25.96%, City Councilor Brad Winter, the sole R in the race, 24.61% and David Steele 2.14%.

The carnage began early. The first results coming to us at KANW 89.1 FM from Winter's district told the tale. Chavez narrowly won boxes that were essential for Winter. After that, it was academic. How much over the magic re-elect number of 40% would he go? As it turned out, more than any other mayor in city history, surpassing David Rusk's 1977 record landslide of 46%.

The NE Heights fired the opening round. Then came the head shot. The mayor's Westside strongholds gave him landslide wins of 60% plus. For Griego and Winter, there was no place to run, no place to hide. Victory was complete and total. Defeat was utter.

"It was quite stunning," said pollster Brian Sandeorff as we performed a late night political autopsy." Marty tied Winter with the Republicans, each of them getting 46%, and Chavez won the Democrats vote with 46% to Griego's 41%. And then the Independents tipped heavily to the mayor. The final Sanderoff poll in the ABQ Journal had Chavez with 42.6% but the low turnout, about 31% of the 281,000 registered voters, or about 87,000, pushed the mayor to the 47% mark. "His supporters were turned out and theirs were not," Sanderoff recapped.

The proposal to hike the minimum wage did nothing for Griego who hitched his wagon to the controversial measure. The proposition died in a tight fight--51% to 49%. How many times have we heard that this is the election where the young people will come out? Save it for the next election.


Despite the magnitude of his victory, the mayor was still feeling wounded by the harsh attacks of the campaign when he took to our air. "They ran the most negative campaign against me in city history. It was wrong and disgusting," glowered Chavez, flashing his famous temper even as the returns acted as a salve on his open wounds. He grudgingly praised Griego for his second place finish, but soon returned to the slash and burn campaign run by the R's and named Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Ken Zangara and GOP Republican National Committee consultant Jay McCleskey as the chief offenders.

It wasn't so much the attacks in the mail and on the air that caused Marty to turn caustic," offered lobbyist Scott Scanland. "The stuff they threw at him in the whispering circles was vicious, accusing him of all kinds of awful personal behavior. That is not stuff you soon forget."

Maybe some friendly faces on the city council will help. West Side Dem Miguel Gomez was defeated by onetime Mayor Marty campaign treasurer and former Bernalillo County Commissioner Ken Sanchez. Two Chavez friendly faces, incumbent Tina Cummins and fellow R Don Harris, will face each other in a run-off November 15th in District nine in the far NE Heights as neither of them won 40% of the vote. And Chavez favorite, R Sally Mayer, easily won re-election to her council seat. My experts say this means Chavez scored a net pickup of one vote on the nine member council.

But the election was clearly a referendum on the mayor and nothing less. "Most people think the city has been run pretty well and were not motivated to vote by the opposition campaigns," explained Scanland.

ABQ GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga was the first R to try to make the peace with the mayor, saying "campaigns get rough and some people step out of line." Chavez replied that it was a "sliver" of the Republican party he was enraged at and asked Larry to help call off the dogs.


After eight years in the job, I asked Chavez if he still had ideas for the future. "I have a lot of them, including light rail for this city. I also really want to establish a better relationship with the school system." He replied.

But for the moment he was relishing the personal vindication that came with this victory. Veteran political observer Steve Cabiedes, joining in a late night radio roundtable, reminded everyone that just two years ago Chavez was left for dead as the ABQPAC fundraising scandal engulfed him and that was followed by the mayor's defeat in 2003 when an important road bond went down.

The churlish and childish tone of the negative campaign run against the mayor may have had him picking up Republican voters that otherwise would have gone to Winter. "It was something like that old saying, 'He may be a bum, but he's our bum,' laughed one veteran R.

GOP Chair Weh
It was a bummer night for the aforementioned consultant Jay McCleskey who two years ago ran a slash and burn city council campaign on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. They all went up in flames. Last night Winter, a moderate, decent and well-liked man, also went Zozobra as the flames he threw were blown back on him. It was also a night of retreat for state GOP Chair Allen Weh who persuaded Winter to get in the race late, but could not come up with proper funding, nor guide the campaign to a more moderate strategy that might have forced a run-off.

Soltari, the liberal consulting group, was another casualty of the mayoral juggernaut. Their mayoral contender, Griego, was crushed as was Marianne Dickinson, thought to be a bright light for the liberals but never got out of the gate against Councilor Mayer. Isaac Benton was the only Soltari candidate to win, beating Diana Dorn-Jones but that was in the most liberal district in the city. And then there was the increase in the minimum wage that was defeated. Soltari hoped to boost turnout for it which would help Eric, but it too died.

The Governor can lay claim to a win and more stroke with city hall as he openly and unabashedly embraced Chavez for another term. City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who scored an impressive 70% re-elect victory, is also a winner, now positioned as the key swing vote on the council. New police chief Ray Schultz wins as he gets to keep his job.


Who were the best predictors for Election 05'? Kurt Lohbeck, playing first base for my All-Star Mayoral Team, was closest, predicting that Chavez would get a minimum of 46%. Scott Scanland said the mayor's race would be put to bed early but the minimum wage battle would be to close to call, and that was a great call. But it was ABQ GOP State Rep Greg Payne, predicting off-the-record, who gets the prize. He foresaw Chavez finishing at 47%, Sally Mayer winning her council seat without a run-off and said Tina Cummins would face a run-off. He only erred on the minimum wage battle.

Good job Greg. You get to buy the whole team lunch.


Not all the polls got it right. Sanderoff's exit poll on the minimum wage had him making an early call in its favor on KOAT-TV only to reverse it later on. He said the reason was "social stigma."

"We think a lot of people were embarrassed to admit they were voting against it. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen on personal questions. Apparently some voters thought this a personal issue and did not tell our exit pollsters the truth on how they had voted." He explained. Still, there was ribbing over the misstep at competitor KRQE-TV where they e-mailed that they would "rather be right than first."

City Councilor Martin Heinrich, who authored the failed wage measure, took hits last night for allowing the "workplace access" issue to become part of the bill which in the end killed it. Heinrich is weighing a run for the Dem nomination for Land Commissioner.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the radio broadcast last night. And to all our sponsors. We signed off at 11:30 p.m. and now its close to 3 a.m. so I'm going to call it a night and a morning here. Thanks for stopping by.

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