Monday, October 23, 2017

Halfway There: ABQ Mayoral Run-off Has 3 Weeks To Go; Where The Race Stands Today, Plus: How Keller Did It; Numbers Tell The Tale; He Carried 8 Of 9 Council Districts 

Three weeks to go in the ABQ mayoral run-off and the marching orders for the candidates are clear: Republican Dan Lewis needs to throw Hail Marys and Democrat Tim Keller needs to avoid a major mistake.

The first three weeks leading up to the Nov. 14 election have been a mostly off-the-radar affair, but that's about to change as the media campaigns gear up for the final three weeks. Early in-person voting begins citywide this Wednesday, giving a greater sense of urgency for Lewis, who trailed Keller 49 to 36 percent in the first public poll conducted for KOB-TV immediately after the October 3 balloting.

In the early going Lewis has come with a TV spot attacking Keller on crime. There was also one debate between the pair but these events have not changed the expectation that this election is going to break along partisan lines, meaning Keller is still in the driver's seat.

Lewis' financial report filed Friday was decent, but it showed no signs of his candidacy breaking out of partisan boundaries, with contributions coming almost exclusively from the usual GOP donors.

Lewis has raised about $200,000 for the run-off, bought over $60,000 in TV time to carry him to the end of this week and has $155,000 in cash.

Keller is receiving $125,000 in public financing and a political committee supporting him has about $92,000 in cash. That makes him competitive with Lewis.

A political committee independent of Lewis has yet to raise any money but we're told they will. Will it be significant enough to give Lewis a decided cash advantage?

As for that anti-Keller committee backed by developers of the controversial Santolina west side planned community, we reported Thursday they were back in the race, but it turns out they so far have spent little on the TV ad that they first aired against Keller in the initial round of voting. Veteran media consultant Chris brown in Santa Fe informs:

So far in the run-off, they only bought 2 spots on KRQE and 4x on KOB for $3,440 total. One of them was in the 10pm KRQE News. They are now dark again unless new orders are pending posting.

Is Santolina done or will they come with another wave against Keller? We'll keep watching.


Underdog Lewis will have ample opportunity to try to force Keller to fumble the ball. The pair is scheduled to engage in three TV debates, the first of which will be this Sunday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. on KOAT-TV. 

The daunting task facing Lewis is clear from analysis provided by Steve Cabiedes of SC Consulting:

In the eight way election Oct. 3 Keller carried eight of the nine city council districts. In Councilor Lewis' home district on the westside he beat Keller by the not overwhelming margin of 36.4% to 27.6%. 

The Keller wins included the usually deep Republican District 8 in the far Northeast Heights. That has to be particularly troubling to Lewis.

Keller's appeal to conservative independents--who have apparently been impressed by his aggressive performance as State Auditor--is another worry point for the GOP hopeful.

Lewis seems to have at least a small opening with Dem Hispanic voters, some of whom have been lukewarm to the Keller candidacy and its progressive tilt. Notably, the first Lewis TV spot shows a Hispanic woman being threatened by a criminal attack.

Still, the ledger favors Keller. He has endorsements from the unions representing police officers and firefighters which he can use to defend against Lewis' "hug a thug" accusation. And the ABQ Fraternal Order of Police has now joined the Keller camp, issuing this endorsement:

We wholeheartedly endorsed Tim Keller because he is the best candidate to stand up for front-line police officers and attack the crime crisis in Albuquerque," said President Bob Martinez.

That's more rebuttal power for Keller as Lewis begins to come with even starker charges against him as the run-off nears its final days.


By any definition October 3 was an impressive win for Keller. As we reported above, he carried eight of the nine city council districts, managed 39 percent of the vote in an eight person field and kept Lewis at bay in his home westside council district.

The run-off was triggered because no candidate received 50 percent of the vote. Lewis came in second to Keller with 23 percent.

The final vote total for the mayor's race broken down by city council district, including the total votes and the percentage each candidate earned, is here.

Two numbers stand out in the post-election analysis compiled from the city by SC Consulting: Keller garnered 59 percent in liberal SE Heights District 6, part of which he used to represent as a state senator. And in District 2, which makes up a large part of the liberal North Valley, Keller trounced the field, getting 55 percent of the vote.

Those districts now look like like cornerstones of the victory that he could put together Nov. 14.  Ominously, Lewis finished 4th in both Districts 6 and 2.

The weakness in Keller's Hispanic numbers are shown in Valley District 3 where he eked out a first place showing, coming with 29.4 percent to Brian Colón's 28.7 percent. But District 3 traditionally has the lowest turnout in the city. It did Oct. 3 and it likely will Nov. 14. Also, in the end it is a Democratic district and that will help Keller.

In the October 3 balloting 63 percent of the vote was cast for Democratic candidates--Keller, Brian Colón, Gus Pedrotty and Susan Wheeler-Deischel. Thirty-seven percent was cast for Republicans Lewis, Wayne Johnson, Ricardo Chaves and independent Michelle Garcia Holmes.

(In the first draft of the blog Thursday we had Garcia Holmes getting 7 percent. She received 4 percent.)

As you can see, it appears it is going to take more than a negative campaign against Keller to beat him. Lewis will need Keller to make a big mistake or a series of them that dampen enthusiasm for him with Democrats and independents. And Lewis will have to get a robust showing of Republicans, even as Wayne Johnson, his main GOP  rival Johnson from October 3, refuses to endorse him.

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