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Monday, October 30, 2017

A Relentless Underdog: Lewis Pounds Keller In First Mayoral TV Debate; Frontrunner Fends Him Off With Blows Of His Own; Our Complete Coverage Is Up Next 

Like a dentist searching for a raw nerve, Dan Lewis relentlessly drilled down on Tim Keller in an hour long, live televised debate Sunday night. (Complete video here.)

He pounded the front-runner for being unethical, a criminal coddler and a do-nothing state senator. It had the makings of a devastating indictment if Keller had been caught by surprise. But he's nursing a double digit lead in the polls and he handled the accusations with aplomb while leveling charges of his own against the Republican city councilor.

There is rarely a knockout or knockdown punch delivered in these events and such was the case on KOAT-TV. Lewis's inability to rattle his foe and a create a headline for the debate was the key outcome because of Keller's aforementioned lead.

Let's go to the pond and get more analysis from one of our Alligators:

Lewis threw everything he had at Keller, but the attacks seemed scattered. Lewis closed strong with a fusillade of attacks over Keller's ethics saying "multiple ethics violations follow you everywhere." It was surprising that the state auditor did not mount more of a defense since he has been uncovering ethics violations across the state. 

The first thing I noticed is tone and demeanor. Keller sounds more positive, while Lewis looks and sounds angry. I was surprised at how negative the debate was. Where were these attacks before we got to the runoff? By letting Keller basically have a free ride into the runoff, the attacks seem desperate. None of the mayoral candidates spent the past few months making the case against Keller and it's going to be hard for Lewis to do it in the next two weeks.

A CLEAR WINNER?

We asked longtime political consultant, ABQ attorney and former city councilor Greg Payne, formerly an R but now a D, for debate analysis. First, was there a clear winner?

The first half hour was a little tougher than the second for Keller, but the State Auditor ultimately swatted away the attacks by Lewis and came across as the more upbeat and positive of the two candidates. Not only did Keller not lose the debate, he may have won it on a TKO.

What about the elephant in the room by the name of Richard Berry? No one seemed to name the outgoing mayor out loud. Payne's take:

Lewis' biggest problem is Berry. The city realizes the Berry Administration has been a failure. Rightly or wrongly, there is an unspoken assumption that a vote for Lewis is tantamount to voting in favor of Berry's third term. That's why Lewis's only response to Keller when asked, 'What have you done to change things in the past eight years?' was for Lewis to not answer the question directly and pivot to the ethics complaints Republican operative Pat Rogers has filed against Keller. The Berry mayoral fiasco is the political elephant in the room this election that no one is talking about, but should. That includes Tim Keller.

It's understandable that Keller wants support across the board, but Keller could have done more to fire up the Democratic base by going after Berry and APD Chief Gordon Eden by name.

Bottom line: Albuquerque is a city with an overwhelming Democratic registration advantage. You don't need Republican votes to win a city-wide election. You just need to get the majority party of Albuquerque fired up and into the voting booth.

Thanks, Greg. He'll be with us once again on KANW 89.1 FM Tuesday, November 14 at 6:30 p.m. when we bring you our exclusive wall-to-wall coverage of the mayoral run-off as well as the City Council District Five run-off featuring Republican Robert Aragon and Dem Cynthia Borrego.

Now, your blogger's short takes on the Keller-Lewis clash. . .

STRONGEST MOMENTS

Keller was at his best when he asked Lewis how, after years of "skyrocketing crime and flatlining wages" and "our kids leaving our city," did Lewis allow it to happen during his 8 years as a city councilor. Lewis argued he is only one of nine councilors and that the issues Keller spoke of were those "the executive does." He then unloaded a barrage of charges on Keller who quipped, "I am not sure why you did not answer. The bus is going over the cliff and you're asking for a promotion."

Lewis scored when the candidates were asked how they defined a sanctuary city and where they stood. That had Keller dancing and he gave an answer that did not make clear his position. Lewis pounced, asking Keller why he did not simply say what he has said in mayoral forums--that he supports having ABQ as a sanctuary city.

BEST DECISIONS

Lewis retired for the evening his well-known but juvenile attack line about Keller's crime platform. He calls it a "hug a thug" plan. But not last night. Thanks, Dan.

The sometimes too wonkish Keller refrained from getting in the weeds on issues like planned growth and water that make the eyes glaze over. Thanks for the no "MEGO" moments, Tim.

THE COSMETICS

Both candidates looked like young businessmen in their dark suits. But there was some kind of eruption on Lewis' forehead that make-up did not cover and that drew considerable comment on Facebook.

THE QUESTIONS....

were good and covered the litany of city woes with the weight of them toward crime. The time limits gave both contenders a chance to adequately rebut and answer. This was not a freewheeling debate with a moderator following up but the rigidness of the format and the spartan stage kept the focus where it belonged--on the contenders and their answers.

THE AUDIENCE

Was there one? Game 5 of the World Series and an NFL game played opposite the debate at 6 p.m. The station could have done a better job of giving the potential audience a clean shot at watching.

WHAT'S TO COME

This was the most important of the three TV debates, coming as early voting gets underway in earnest and with more undecided voters. By the time the next debates roll around--November 7 and 11--a large percentage of the vote will already have been cast and the Nov. 14 election just days away.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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