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Monday, September 18, 2017

Your Big Monday Election Blog: Keller Ahead Of Pack In Latest Poll; Scramble For Second; Who Attacks Whom In Final Days? Plus: Early Vote Tallies, TV Debate Reviewed, Smotherman Smothers Lewis And More On Dark Attacks On Keller 

They'll try to bring him down a notch in the final two weeks of the campaign but the latest poll shows Dem mayoral candidate Tim Keller appears to have secured enough of the progressive Democratic base to nearly guarantee himself a spot in a run off election in November.

No candidate is poised to get 50 percent of the vote October 3. A run-off election between the two top vote getters is expected to be called for November 14.

That's the main takeaway from the ABQ Journal poll conducted Sept. 11-14 and released Sunday. It shows Keller in the top spot with 25% followed by fellow Dem Brian Colón with 14; Republican Dan Lewis at 13% and his fellow R Wayne Johnson at 7%. The undecided remained large last week at 32% and could signal a low turnout election. The other four candidates lag and may not be much of a factor in the final stretch: Michelle Garcia Holmes is at 4% Gus Pedrotty at 3 and Ricardo Chaves and Susan Wheeler-Deischel each at 1 percent.

The poll (MOE 4.3%) had to be disappointing for Colón who had jumped to 19 percent in a Carroll Strategies survey conducted for KOB-TV September 5. Keller had 22 percent. But that poll called only landlines and did not reach cellphone users. When the Journal's Sanderoff included cellphones, Colón dropped back but still managed second place.

Dem attorney, longtime political consultant and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne (who made a donation to Colón's campaign) says:

The trend is toward a Keller-Colon run-off with an outside chance for Lewis. I think Colón's numbers may have been a bit low in this survey but setting that aside, the Republican split between Johnson and Lewis continues and that is why Colón still has the better shot of making the final two. 

As Payne said, the other main narrative of the mayoral race--in addition to Keller's steady lead--was not disputed by the survey. The R's remain split between Lewis and Johnson, perhaps hopelessly so, and neither of their top contenders may make the final cut.

An Alligator monitoring the proceedings from the inside comes with his suggested strategies for the race's final two weeks:

If I'm running that independent committee for Keller, I would be thinking about attacking Wayne Johnson in order to increase the chances of Lewis getting in the run-off and displacing Colón. Colón is a problem for Keller in a run-off but Keller could easily beat any of the GOP candidates in a head to head race in a Democratic city. 

For Johnson, the strategy is obvious. He must attack Dan Lewis if he is to make a big move. 

Colón may not have moved as much as he wanted to from his many TV ads because he has yet to speak to the voters in those ads. He used Attorney General Balderas to attract Hispanic voters and it worked, but in order to start closing the deal Colón will have to  appear on camera and speak convincingly about why he should be Mayor. 

The analysts we spoke with agreed that Colón does not have to do anything negative, not with a committee out there attacking fellow Dem Keller with controversial ads that accuse Keller of being weak on sex offenders.

The high undecided portends a low turnout at this relatively late stage. Our initial projection was for 85,000 to 89,000 voters taking part, a turnout of at least near 22 percent of the registered, but that may be going by the wayside. Says Payne:

None of these candidates has energized the public. They have been playing it safe and saying little that stirs the pot. Unfortunately, the question hovering over this race is not "who's ahead? but "who cares?" For that reason I see getting to the 80,000 mark quite difficult. 

VOTE WATCH

Early vote by party 
Through Friday we've had 4,785 votes cast via early and absentee voting in the '17 City Election, reports Rick Abraham of ABQ's Data Flux.

Democrats are outperforming in the early going with 56 percent, the R's come with 32 and the independents are at 11 percent. If we lower the voter turnout model to 80,000 that would mean 6 percent of the total vote has now been cast.

The early Dem surge could be due in part to votes being banked by the Keller campaign which is thought to have the best grassroots organization of the eight hopefuls. We'll see if that Dem trend continues by the end of this week. If it does, it could spell good news for Keller and perhaps former Dem Party Chair Colón.

By the way, Abraham is a former chair of the Bernalillo County GOP. He will be with us for our exclusive wall-to-wall Election Night coverage on KANW-89.1 FM starting October 3 at 6:30 p.m.

DEBATE REVIEW

It was no surprise the polling leaders also came out on top in the Friday night KOB-TV mayoral debate. State Auditor Keller and Colón are well practiced in public speaking and were on their toes, according to a consensus of Alligator opinion we collected. BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson also showed that almost 8 years in office gives you the depth of knowledge that you simply don't get when you are on the outside. Lewis, an 8 year city councilor, also performed ably.

The debate format, unlike an earlier TV face-off, did allow for the candidates to rebut statements from the others. But that fell flat when the candidates insisted on sticking to their talking points and avoiding confrontation at all cost. And Mayor Berry was barely mentioned, despite presiding over this historic crime wave. And you wonder why the public has not warmed to this bunch?

SMOTHERING LEWIS

Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smotherman is smothering Dan Lewis and perhaps his dream of becoming mayor. You see the photo of them together and the quote from the pastor on Instagram:

I wholeheartedly support Dan Lewis for mayor. He's the one true believer in the race, and would never in anyway support the homosexual agenda.

Why would Smotherman issue such an ill-timed public endorsement of Lewis who is working furiously to position himself as a centrist Republican in a Democratic city? And why would Lewis, a former pastor himself, perhaps blow up his hopes of becoming mayor by coming back with this tepid response to Smotherman's embrace of him:

You know a lot of people have said they support me. So as far as an official endorsement, I don't know what that means and I don't know what an agenda means that he was talking about. . . Look, I'm not sure what kind of splash it's had. Again, I go where I'm invited. I go to groups all over the city, some that I agree with and some that I don't. I go and talk about the challenges in our city and what somebody else meant by it, you'll have to go out and ask what they meant by it.

Lewis, an ordained Baptist minister who was a church pastor in ABQ, has as his main ground game for getting out the vote the 20,000 Smotherman troops who attend Legacy and who consider the gay lifestyle an abomination. If Lewis dumps them he might bump any chance he has of getting in a run-off election. That explains that "coded" support of Smotherman while still trying to distance himself from him with other voters.

But by not doing more to distance himself to what will be seen as an outrageous statement by many city voters Lewis positions himself on the far right in any run-off. And far right is a sure loser in a two person race.

Lewis, unlike Mayor Berry and Mayor Chavez, also will not pledge to sign a proclamation for the annual Gay Pride Parade. That, combined with the refusal to distance himself from Smotherman and his fear of the "homosexual agenda" could have far reaching ramifications if Lewis were to become mayor. Would national corporations like Facebook and Amazon come under pressure not to do business with a Lewis/Smotherman administration.

As for Rev. Smotherman, he always wanted to be a power player in ABQ politics. Well, he just became one by giving away his power when he boxed Lewis in. The moral of the story: When the cat is in the bag, do not let it out on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any of the other social media mine fields waiting for you to step on.

THOSE DARK ADS

Our sources report that the Make Safe ABQ group is doubling down on that controversial TV ad that claims Tim Keller accommodated sex offenders when he voted for a bill as a state senator.

The group--which we have learned is backed by various business interests who fear Keller's progressive politics, including the developers of the Santolina project on the city's west side, started with a budget of $30,000 but now we're getting word the ad buy will increase. Despite questions by some observers about whether the ad goes too far and could create a backlash in favor of Keller, the group has also come with a billboard which you see here. It will be going up on the city's freeways.

Keller's progressive base is strong and dedicated. The attack probably won't move them, but it could keep a cap on Keller's growth going forward and make him more vulnerable in a run-off.

The specific contributions to the the anti-Keller committee won't be known until campaign finance reports are filed this Friday.

Longtime Dem activist Chris Catcheis was one of those who took to social media to defend Keller against the onslaught:

Where has this "Make ABQ Safe" group been the last 8 years while this city has gone through a hell of violence, drug addiction, and burglary? I can think of a lot better ways that they could spend their money to make ABQ safe, that doesn't involve wasting thousands on negative TV commercials for a mayoral race.

The question now is whether the committee separate from Keller's campaign will use some of its cash to fund a response to the high level nuke attack on Keller? If it's correct that the ad buy against him is going higher, they may consider it, but with Keller appearing to be safely in the runoff, the decision may be to let this slide.

Meanwhile, that pro-Keller committee run by former Keller campaign manager Neri Holguin, has come with its first TV spot. It focuses on Keller's record as state auditor, saying he has uncovered fraud that has "saved taxpayers millions." It adds that he "will change APD "from top to bottom" and closes by saying Keller has "a record of change."

While the committee may or may not come with a media response to the sex offender ad, Holguin did take a swipe at Make ABQ Safe, saying:

The secret PAC attacking Tim Keller are sloppy amateurs. Those who are financially supporting the PAC "Make ABQ Safe" should be embarrassed to be associated with them. They are attacking Tim on a vote he took in 2011 which would later become part of legislation that tightened New Mexico’s sex offender laws in 2013, signed by Gov. Martinez. No wonder so many are outraged and speaking up to defend Tim - he has a record of fighting for sexual assault survivors.

RICARDO AND GUS

Here is 81 year old Ricardo Chaves, the oldest mayoral hopeful, hanging out with the youngest, 22 year old Gus Pedrotty. When do you see a nearly 60 year age difference in an election? That's one for the books.

This picture has them wearing those cool sunglasses and visiting the Verdes Foundation Medical Cannabis Dispensary. Hey, maybe the two of them can go into business together if this mayor thing doesn't work out. Ricardo, owner of a national parking company, already has a lot of money and Gus has the brain power. We can see it now: "The Pedrotty-Chaves Pot Farm."

BILL AND PETE

There have been a lot of stories about former GOP Senator Pete Domenici who died last week and was memorialized in ABQ over the weekend. This one from former Governor Bill Richardson caught our attention. Take a look:

“The most important thing in Domenici's legislative agenda. . . was the labs. . . He would forsake any other interest he had if the labs got properly funded.” Richardson, a Democrat who served in Congress with Domenici, said he remembers the late lawmaker negotiating with him over lab funding in the late 1990s. He recalled Domenici offering to support his request for $5 million for an acequia project if Richardson could convince House Democrats to back about $1 billion for the labs. “He said, ‘I’ll trade you $5 million for your [expletive] amendment — all right, for your weak amendment on the acequias — for the billion I need for the labs in Los Alamos and Sandia.’ ” Richardson said. “That’s a true story.”

And that, kids, is how they used to play the game for New Mexico.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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