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Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year Ushers In New Attitude Toward ABQ Mayor; Sources Report Berry's Approval Rating Has Finally Dropped Below Key 50 Percent Mark 

One of the big political stories of 2016 has been the resiliency of ABQ GOP Mayor Richard Berry but the new year appears to be ushering in a new attitude toward the city's chief executive who is now deep into his second term and weighing a candidacy for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Reliable sources report that pre-Christmas polling done in conjunction with the '17 ABQ mayoral race has Berry's approval rating finally dropping below the key 50 percent mark. Our sources report Berry's approval among regular ABQ voters "is in the low 40's." The poll was conducted among likely city voters over the age of 55. However, it is doubtful, according to campaign consultants, that his numbers would differ dramatically with age groups not surveyed. Also, older voters are the most likely to vote in a mayoral race or a GOP gubernatorial primary.

That's the first time we have seen Berry so low since he became Mayor in December 2009. He has routinely polled favorably with over half the electorates. But there are good reasons for the drop, not the least of which is his hyper-controversial decision to tear up Central Avenue to install a $119 million (at last count) rapid transit project. Republicans and Democrats alike have raised Cain over the ART project but Berry has turned a deaf ear to the critics. Now he's paying.

In a blistering op-ed longtime Republicans Larry and Dorothy Rainosek, who own the Frontier restaurant and another restaurant in the construction zone, attacked Berry over the project, saying it is hurting business now and will hurt even more when it is finally completed. That op-ed is making the rounds among grassroots Republicans. Throw in an ongoing and frightening crime wave and a years-long economic stagnation and you can see why Berry is finally on the ropes.

We haven't seen the innards of the poll but it's fair speculation to say that Berry's approval drop is in good measure tied to members of his own Republican Party. That's what happened to Republican Governor Martinez when her approval rating in October plunged from the 50's to only 36 percent in SurveyUSA. Members of her own party began to abandon her in the wake of her infamous 2015 holiday pizza party and her refusal in '16 to endorse Donald Trump.

Martinez and Berry have given the public plenty of reasons to turn on them but even if they hadn't any party in power for six or seven years is bound to show fatigue, prompting calls for change. Berry's second and final mayoral term ends next December.

That doesn't mean Republicans can't make a charge for the mayor's chair in 2017 or the Governor's mansion in'18 but if they do they are going to have to leave the Berry-Martinez years behind them. It is rare indeed for politicians with high name ID to regain majority approval after crashing to the lows we are now seeing with Berry and Martinez.

For the Democrats it's a much easier street to navigate as they position themselves as the party of change. Their problem is to avoid bloody infighting over who will lead them out of the wilderness or else risk letting the R's through a crack in the door.

Happy New Year, New Mexico!

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