Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Three Weeks To Go In Mayor's Race; Who's Up And Who's Down? Our In-Depth Look, Plus: Question Over Poll Question, And: Healthwatch On Pete & Bruce 

Three weeks to go in the 2009 ABQ mayor contest, but not much has changed from three months ago; Democratic Mayor Marty Chavez remains in command of the race, with the conventional wisdom awarding him more than 40% of the vote--but not necessarily much more--when he reaches for an unprecedented fourth term on October 6.

Our analysts think Chavez may have been given a break by the decision of Dem mayoral candidate Richard Romero to apparently forego TV ads. No mayoral candidate in modern city history has reached a run-off or been elected without TV spots. Pollsters and pundits are nearly unanimous in their view that voters expect to see a serious mayoral hopeful on paid TV or they don't consider that candidate to be for real.

Romero has had some effective hits in the mail, charging Chavez with promoting a too-expensive downtown arena, among other things. But without a visual image, voters are not as moved. In 1993, when the mayoral candidates were limited to spending the annual salary of the mayor--not even $75,000---Chavez managed an effective TV campaign by cutting 15 second spots.

If Romero fades because of a diminished presence, that could mean a pick-up of Democratic voters for Chavez, Additional Dem votes going to Chavez would make the hill steeper for Republican RJ Berry. He needs that Dem vote split up.


Berry is hammering on the issue of the "trolley car" but he and Romero have not been able to develop defining issues to galvanize voters against Chavez. The best we can determine is that internal campaign polling shows Chavez just above the 40% level. Should it be more for a mayor with 99% name ID and who has faced subdued opposition? And is Chavez hitting back hard enough to ensure no late drift to his foes?

Chavez is doing some push back on the attacks on him on the "trolley" and his crime record in a radio ad now in heavy rotation on conservative talk radio KKOB-AM.

The "trolley" was also used by GOP Sheriff Darren White in his congressional race last year against former City Councilor and Dem Martin Heinrich, but fizzled. It will, however, help Berry bring home conservative voters. Trouble is, he needs more votes in the middle.


The ABQ Journal does not announce when it conducts its polls, but educated guessing now has their one and only survey hitting the news stands Sunday, September 27. If Chavez is very near or over 40%--the number needed to avoid a run-off election between the two top finishers--it will give him momentum and further dampen interest in a race that has failed to ignite voter interest.

But this is not looking like a blow-out. Chavez took 47% of the vote four years ago in a four way race. Four years later he has more enemies and a lousy economy. At the beginning of the campaign, the Alligator consensus had Chavez coming in at 43.5%. They are not rushing to change it.


There's nearly a mayoral forum a day or more now, and Berry and Romero are on the offensive--as they need to be. Here's some video from the trail.

There will be only one live TV debate on the big three network affiliates--at 9 p.m. September 23 on KOB-TV. That will be an opportunity for Berry and Romero, but Chavez has proven himself to be anything but easy pickings. (KNME-TV will also air a debate on Friday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.).


Public financing, in which each candidate gets $328,000, is proving to be an obstacle for the challengers. It is not much money to cover direct mail, TV and radio. According to city reports filed last week by the campaigns, Chavez is best armed for the final stretch, with about $200,000 left. Berry has about $137,000 and Romero about $70,000. Berry and Romero are paying handsomely for staff and consultants. Chavez is not. The two challengers have also had to spend early to get better known. The bottom line? Chavez has as much money to fight in the remaining days as both of his foes.


Chavez is expected to win the editorial endorsement of the ABQ Journal, a nod that has more impact in a low-turnout city election than a general election. It would help most with Republicans. If the endorsement unexpectedly went to Berry it would energize his final days.


Chavez has not been given much of a run for his money yet. If that changes and the mayor is held below 40% Election Night, a media frenzy would ensue. But right now, Chavez's head is well above the water line; the sharks are nipping, but not feeding.


Chavez came with a new TV spot Monday hitting one of his favorite themes--public safety. He boasts of busting up the Memphis Mob," a drug gang trying to move into ABQ. He also says his administration passed the "toughest anti-sexual predator law in the nation" and that he will hire an additional 100 police officers. On the other side, Richard Romero is scoring Chavez for not ever mentioning the mass slaying of prostitutes that was discovered on the city's West Side this year. Romero is also calling for 143 additional cops, but he would get them by shifting police from desk jobs to the street.


Reader Stephen Reed wonders about the ABQ Journal poll in which 49% of the respondents said they did not favor the public option becoming part of national health reform and 42% said they did:

As a data coordinator and psych major I know how much the wording of a poll can affect it's outcome. It seemed to me the ABQ Journal question on the public option neglected to specify that the public option is insurance provided by the government, not health care provided by the government, an important distinction.

Here is the question the Journal asked in the poll conducted last week and released Monday, followed by pollster Brian Sanderoff's response:

"Do you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan run by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?"


Actually, the question said “public health care plan.” In health care, a “plan” is a type of insurance. “Presbyterian Healthcare Plan” or Lovelace Healthcare Plan” or “United HealthCare” or all types of health insurance...Also the rest of the question says that the public plan would compete directly with private insurance companies, thus further implying that it is a health insurance plan, not a health care delivery system.

Some pollsters say including the word "option" in the question, rather than plan, increases support for the public option

However, the Washington Post-ABC News poll showing 55% support for the public option, much higher than the Journal, used a question similar to that used by the New Mexico newspaper:

Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?


Those are the latest approval numbers for the Prez and NM's two US Senators in the ABQ Journal poll conducted last week. Udall came in at only 50% approval in a late Aug. SurveyUSA poll which is now looking out of sync.


If the race for the southern congressional seat comes down to money for TV ads, both Dem US Rep. Harry Teague and former GOP Rep. Steve Pearce, who is trying to win the seat back, have strong hands. Teague probably the strongest. According to Roll Call Teague is number ten on the list of the wealthiest members of Congress. His Hobbs-based energy services company was valued at over $40 million at the end of 2008. The kicker? Teague received $3.3 million in dividend income from the business last year when he wrote personal checks for over $1.5 million in his primary and general election races.

Teague will be able to tap into national Democratic money as he seeks re-election, but the record shows he is willing to write the check if need be.


Like Teague, Pearce isn't headed for the poor house. He made millions when he sold his own Hobbs-based energy company several years ago. Pearce is expected to be a strong money-raiser, but it is rare for a challenger to out raise an incumbent. The national congressional campaign committees have played active roles in New Mexico's US House races, making huge TV buys for their candidates. A question being asked in political circles: Will the national R's hold back on Pearce and urge him to put up some of his own money? They might if they are faced with many competitive races and not enough cash.


One of our Senior Alligators provides this report on former NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici, 77, as he visited around the ABQ area before heading to Las Cruces for this week's 2009 Domenici Public Policy conference:

Pete has had his right shoulder replaced and is now free from pain in his right arm and shoulder. He is able to move his arm freely. He said that the operation took a lot out of him. After the operation he was walking near his home on Capitol Hill and tripped on the uneven brick sidewalk and injured his knees. Pete cut the ribbon for the education center in his name and gave a talk about his connection to Albuquerque and the Center--he obtained $21 million for the Center for the Performing Arts at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Former Lieutenant Governor Roberto Mondragon gave a singing tribute....


There's also health news of another NM political notable--former Governor Bruce King. His family says King, 85, the longest-serving Governor in state history, is recovering from a recent medical procedure:

He is resting comfortably after undergoing surgery to adjust the leads on his heart pacemaker device. Governor King had been experiencing health troubles recently due, in part, to the need to adjust electrical impulses from the device that regulates heart function. He is reported to be alert, talking to family and anxious to return home to his ranch near Stanley.

Did you know that long ago Pete Domenici and Bruce King ran against each other for the Governor's chair? It happened in 1970 and Democrat Bruce won, giving Pete his only state electoral defeat.


When Bruce was active in politics there was no such thing as Facebook or Twitter. But now there is and it seems it can be dangerous to the former Guv's health. Last week a radio reporter erroneously "Twittered" that Bruce was on his death bed and that the King family was gathering to pay its last respects. The Twit. later corrected, went out to some 800 "followers." Seems that reporter could use some guidance from our Alligators.


From the Guv's schedule for today:

12:30p.m.---Governor Richardson to Speak about his Recent Trip to Cuba and the Future of U.S.-Cuban Relations, UNM Campus--Dane Smith Hall, Room 120

Does that future include him?

From Conan O'Brien:

One of President Obama's advisers called Joe Wilson, the guy who heckled the President, 'a pimple on the ass of progress.' ... Then the adviser stressed that removing a pimple from the ass of progress would be covered by Obama's healthcare plan."

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