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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Battle For Second Gets Political Hearts Racing; Lewis Vs. Colón Goes Down To The Wire; Keller Still Perched In Top Spot, Plus: It Appears Lt. Gov Sanchez Is Out Of Politics For the '18 Cycle  

With Democrat Tim Keller poised to claim first place in the eight way race for Mayor, a dramatic battle for second place, which will determine who will join him in a November run-off election, has taken center stage and is giving plenty of heart palpitations to political junkies of all stripes. (Early voting locations here.)

Grab your defibrillator and head out to the campaign trail with us as we join Democrat Brian Colón and Republican Dan Lewis in their down-to-the-wire, do-or die duel for 2nd place dominance.

After what may have been a bout of indecision that had a TV spot running too long for the liking of campaign critics, Colón has come with his closing spot. He narrates the 30 second ad and also appears on camera to address voters directly, the first time he has done so in any of his ads.

Meantime Lewis is carpeting bombing Republican rival Wayne Johnson in the ABQ NE Heights, the heart of the GOP,  by circulating his endorsement by the ABQ Journal (they also endorsed Colón) and coupling it with an important final days endorsement from the politically powerful National Rifle Association.

Both candidates are desperately trying to catch fire in a race that has been a yawner, with Keller polling in the mid 20's and the only contender who has generated much enthusiasm, even if that is mostly limited to his progressive Dem base.

There are five other candidates in the mayoral contest. All have fallen by the wayside to leave the final "Big Three" of Keller, Lewis and Colón.

Polling is still inconclusive on the Lewis-Colón contest. It could be decided by just a couple of points, as both men wrestle with prickly political problems and as the clock ticks menacingly away.

FINAL AD PUSH

Colón's new spot works to appeal to undecided women voters without risking the considerable Republican support he has generated. For those female voters the ad positions him as a conciliator and someone who can be a bridge to both sides.

To broaden the ad's appeal some language is a bit tougher. He says the city must be saved because "enough is enough." But he steers away from explicitly saying why the city must be saved and who is to be blamed for its condition.

That GOP support, his own conciliatory instincts and the play-it-safe consultant class has boxed him in from directly attacking the unpopular Mayor Berry and being stronger in his condemnation. The danger is that the the spot does not motivate enough voters to push him across the line and leaves him limping behind Lewis. The complete ad transcript:

This is more than a campaign for mayor, it's about saving the city I love. Where my wife has been a teacher for seventeen years and our son went to public schools, where I mentored local students and helped victims of crime. I'm Brian Colón and as Mayor I'll work to find common ground and smarter solutions, put more police on our streets and create more good jobs because enough is enough.

There's a lot going on in that ad and it calls for Alligator analysis:

I don't think it really changes anything. It doesn't cut through the clutter. It's a low turnout year and voters are not inspired by his soft, unifying approach. I'm still left wondering who is this guy and why is he qualified to be mayor? Because his wife's a teacher? His kid goes to college? When he says "enough is enough" it lacks any "oomph" because he hasn't identified why he's exasperated with the current situation. Keller, in his ads, visibly and verbally communicates he wants to change directions; Lewis starkly wants to make Albuquerque the worst place to be a criminal; what is Brian 's message? It's frustrating to watch.

FOR THE KILL 

Lewis is going directly for the kill in the ABQ NE Heights with a spot putting blame for the crime epidemic directly on soft on crime District Court judges and promising to hold them accountable. It is a play for the Alpha male GOP vote that he has been dividing with BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson. It is a motivating spot to base voters in a low turnout election.

(We may have a too high total for Lewis' final week TV buy on the Tuesday blog. We have Chris Brown working on the final number. How much matters)

Combined with the male-oriented Journal and NRA endorsements, Lewis has clawed himself back into the second place battle. Only a week ago we and others were saying that the city was teetering on the edge of an all Democratic run-off. Now Lewis has a plausible path to second and an easier one than Colón.

However, late breaking news has Johnson cutting a TV spot attacking Lewis. So that's another threat to Lewis unifying the GOP base.

It's going to be an exciting finish and we want you there with us starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Oct 3 on KANW 89.1 FM as we call all the action. And on Monday at 5 p.m. join us for our traditional pre-game show where we will run down the mayor and council races, the sick leave ordinance and the bond issues. Among our guests will be former ABQ GOP City Councilor and State Rep. Janice Arnold Jones, ABQ attorney David Buchholtz and longtime Dem activist Sandy Buffet.

THE KELLER CARAVAN

The mayoral front-runner is pivoting to jobs and the economy in the final days while a PAC supporting Keller is expected to come with a TV spot touting his endorsement from the ABQ police officers union. In addition, we are hearing the PAC will micro target an attack on Colón via the mailboxes in an effort to keep him out of the run-off.

The Alligators pegged a 33 percent finish by Keller as perhaps strong enough to soften opposition to him in the run-off election, but there's been pushback. Keller skeptics are saying since undecided voters were at 32 percent the week of September 11, the bar is higher for Keller if he hopes to scare off big money donors who would finance a campaign against him. They are trying to set expectations higher, saying that only a showing near 40 percent by Keller would slow the drive to thwart him from achieving citywide power.

And Dems supporting Colón are warning that a Keller mayoral victory will mean Republican Governor Martinez would appoint a new state auditor to fill the vacancy Keller would create by becoming mayor. They fear she will unleash a hard-nosed partisan who will have a full year to wreak havoc with Democrats. Give it to Colón, they argue, and keep Keller in the auditor's slot where he could easily win re-election next year.

The Keller campaign appears to be banking early votes in key Democratic progressive areas, notes Rick Abraham of Data Flux. He says there has been a spike in the early vote in the heavy D North Valley, ground zero for the Keller movement.

Importantly, there has not been a second wave of media attacks on Keller following the TV hit he took over a vote he cast while a state senator and that accused him of coddling sex offenders.

SANCHEZ SAYS SAYONARA

We haven't spoken directly with the lieutenant governor, but tapped-in GOP sources are emphatic--John Sanchez is out of the game and after months of speculation about his political future will not seek an elective office in the 2018 cycle.

Sanchez, who leaves office with Martinez at the end of next year, has been mentioned as a possible US senate candidate or US House contender. But neither prospect appears promising with Gov. Martinez's approval rating in the cellar and Sanchez tied to her hip.

Sanchez made a tentative move last year to separate himself from Martinez in the hopes of seeking the governorship on his own, but Operation Separation fizzled when he came under pressure from the Governor's machine.

Sanchez is the owner of a successful roofing business and will have plenty to do if he stays off the playing field. He is also young enough (54) to have another shot at political glory in the future, but it is the recent past that now haunts the state's #2 and has him bowing out of La Politica.

THE BOTTOM LINES

While ABQ prepares to vote for Mayor, Santa Fe's race is at the starting line. The election to succeed Javier Gonzales is next March and a big foot just dropped. Businessman/philosopher Alan Webber announced he will seek the mayor's office in the City Different. It appears the number of candidates is headed to the double-digits but Webber, 69, a liberal with a strong following in Santa Fe and who sought the 2014 Dem Guv nod, will likely be among the handful that will be there at the finish line.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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