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Monday, November 13, 2017

Election Eve '17: Where We Are And How We Got There, Plus: Drama Drained From Mayor's Race But Aragon Vs. Borrego For Council Draws Eyeballs, And: Join Us For Our Election Special Today at 5 p.m. On 89.1 FM 

Joe Monahan (Bralley)
Join us today at 5 p.m. on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com for our Election Eve special as we cover the final hours of Campaign '17 and prepare to bring you live, continuous Election Night coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. Now off to the trail. . .

Dan Lewis has been nearly contemptuous in the way he has dismissed Tim Keller in this mayoral race, casting him as an underachieving politician with a big blind spot when it comes to ethics. But the public sees something different and tomorrow night, unless there is an upset of epic proportions, the 39 year old Democratic State Auditor will soundly defeat his Republican rival and get his revenge for the unrelenting attacks Lewis administered to him during their more than 50 public appearances together.

The ABQ Journal poll released Sunday showing Keller at 53 percent to Lewis' 34 and 13 undecided wasn't even the final nail in the coffin. Lewis's political casket had been lowered into the ground the night of October 3 when he earned only 23 percent of the vote to Keller's 39 percent and the run-off limped forward.

Let's take a look at some of the factors that got us to where we are on this Election Eve.

THE SPENDING

R's are not often outspent in top competitive level races but it happened this time.

According to figures compiled by the Journal's Martin Salazar, Keller's publicly financed campaign received a total of $506,000 for the initial Oct. 3 election and the run-off. But the killer for Lewis was the $852,000 raised in support of Keller by political committees independent of his campaign.

That amounts to a total of $1.358 million for Keller, far surpassing any previous mayoral spending, including the $920,000 raised by Mayor Berry's 2013 re-election campaign.

It's true that unlike in '13 we have had two elections this cycle but Keller's number is nearly 50 percent higher then Berry's spending just four years ago.

Lewis, dealing with a divided GOP, raised a total of $847,000, not even close to Keller's count.

Keller's critics say his campaign made a farce of public financing because of those outside committees and that his administration will find itself too beholden to the labor interests that donated so much of that committee cash.

Perhaps, but Keller's spending left Lewis in the dust. In the final days, he struggled to keep a decent TV buy on the air.

ETHICS SCHMETHICS

Another reason for this polling blowout is Lewis' difficulty in getting his attacks over Keller's ethics to stick. It's even more difficult when Keller, in his role as State Auditor, continues to uncover ethics capers across the state, like the one at UNM that made headlines only days before the election:

The State Auditor released an audit Friday on the UNM Athletics Department, revealing the University has missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, due to what the audit calls “a lack of financial controls and confusion about responsibilities among staff.”

Lewis has had some success with the ethics complaints the R's have filed against Keller over how money was handled by his campaign but most won't be decided until after the election. That deprives Lewis of a clean hit on his foe, if the ethics board eventually goes his way.

KELLER TV DELUGE

Then there's the TV ads where Lewis has been so heavily outspent. We asked media watcher and ad buyer Chris Brown in Santa Fe for a final update on the ad buys in the mayoral run-off.

He says a small error on one station's spreadsheet reduces the Keller campaign buy from the previously reported $90,000 to $85,000. But the big media story  continues to be how Keller and the committees backing him have used a pile of cash to dominate Lewis on the airwaves:

Joe, We have the ABQ Forward Together committee supporting Keller spending $226,102 on TV for the run-off. Combined with the $90,000 from the Keller campaign, that's $316,000. Lewis' final total appears to  be $151,902. We end with Lewis being outspent on the air by a better than two to one margin. 

ANOTHER MEDIA PROBLEM

Then there's Lewis' other media problem, The reliably Republican ABQ Journal is twisted in knots over this election. First, they issue a bizarre dual endorsement in the October 3 balloting for Democrat Brian Colón and Dan Lewis. Then, on Thursday, apparently seeing the handwriting on the wall, they come with a rare endorsement of a Democrat for a top office, giving the nod to Keller over Republican Lewis.

The endorsement will do little to bolster Keller as it is mainly read by Republicans, but it hurt Lewis and R's we spoke with were not happy about it.

The waffling at the paper may reflect the economic stagnation and uncertainty in ABQ, where newspaper circulation continues to slide and advertising is more important than ever--including hefty government advertising.

Remember, it is not the editorial board, composed of the lowly ink-stained wretches, who decide who the newspaper ultimately endorses, it's the owners--the Lang family. They must navigate a dangerous landscape while riding the ultimate dinosaur.

ARAGON'S CANNON

Aragon
If Keller wins he will likely have only a short-lived honeymoon with the paper. That's clear as they were back to their predictable ways with an endorsement of Republican Robert Aragon over Dem Cynthia Borrego in the run-off for the District 5 westside city council seat.

Aragon is a card carrying member of the Governor's political machine who was defeated by Keller when the two ran for State Auditor in 2014. If elected, Aragon would likely become the opposition leader to Keller--an effort that would get full media coverage. No wonder Dems are working so hard for Borrego.

Aragon, 60, an attorney with a family political pedigree that goes back decades, is no plain thorn in the side. He showed his stuff at the NM Business Coalition job interviews where he swung at the ball hard and scored. The DNA of La Politica and the Movida runs thick in his bloodstream.

A who's who of GOP donors have flocked to Aragon, supplying him with ample cash as he tries to fend off what could be a Democratic wave in his swing district. Old political rivals in the NM GOP like Harvey Yates and Pat Rogers are united in their support of Aragon, both donating cash. Consultant Jay McCleskey is on the ground with Aragon, coordinating the mail strategy.

The R's desperately want Aragon in to thwart Keller. If Borrego and Keller win, Keller would have a veto proof city council majority of 6 to 3.

Again, whether Aragon wins tomorrow night could make a major difference in how a Keller administration would navigate the political waters. In other words, if Aragon is defeated Keller won't be dodging a bullet, he'll be dodging a cannon.

Aragon vs. Borrego will be front and center when we take to the KANW airwaves Election Night at 6:30 p.m. 

KLARRISSA, TIM AND ME

Keller and Pena
Also on the endorsement front, ABQ Dem City Councilor Klarrisa Pena finally came with an endorsement Thursday of fellow Dem Keller. She prefaced it by calling it "Better late than never" and said:

Joe Monahan, you’re an awesome dude but you got this one wrong. I have been a supporter of Tim’s long before his run for Mayor. He has been a champion for issues important to Albuquerque’s South West Area. As State Senator he provided dollars for the soon to be a reality Visitors Center atop of Nine Mile Hill on Central.

Well, to be truly awesome we'll have to do some work on our upper body muscles, but we appreciate the description.

As far as being wrong, we blogged October 31 that when it comes to Keller Councilor Pena appeared to be a hold out. At that time she had not issued an endorsement of Keller and her name was notably absent from a fund-raiser for Keller that listed all her fellow Democratic councilors as co-hosts. Does that make her "appear" to be a hold-out? You decide.

The Keller team said Pena's endorsement would come the week of the Oct. 31 blog, but it never did. Councilor Pena said a family emergency interfered with the endorsement and it finally came last Thurday with two days left in early voting.

Look, there's no doubt that Keller and Pena would be on the same page on a majority of issues, but their differences over the controversial Santolina development proposed for the far westside is not going away. That and other matters could color the relationship between the mayor and the council. And that's the news we predict you will be reading about down the line.

THE BOTTOM LINES

From a Senior Alligator:

Joe, Republican Wayne Johnson (who finished fourth in the Oct 3. mayoral balloting and did not make the run-off) does not have a Dan Lewis yard sign in front of his casa. When Wayne's signs came down, nothing replaced them. Maybe they ran out!

Is that what you call a sign of the times?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

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