Wednesday, May 23, 2012

OUR EXCLUSIVE POLL: It's A Two Way Race; Lujan Grisham And Griego In Virtual Tie; Chavez Lags; First Public & Scientific Survey Also Shows Heinrich With Commanding Lead On Balderas In Dem US Senate Derby 

The three way race for the Democratic nomination for the ABQ congressional seat has now become a two way contest that is a virtual tie between Michelle Lujan Grisham and Eric Griego. Marty Chavez lags far behind. And in the Dem race for the US Senate nomination Rep. Martin Heinrich continues to hold a formidable lead--57.3% to 29.1%--over challenger Hector Balderas.

Those are the key findings of an exclusive poll conducted Tuesday night--May 22--by New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan in conjunction with Manzano Strategies. It is the first public and scientific poll conducted in the hotly contested  battle for the U.S. House seat that Heinrich is vacating to make a run for the Senate. Janice Arnold-Jones is unopposed for the Republican nomination and will face the Democratic winner of the June 5 primary.

Lujan Grisham polls 34.7%, Griego garners 33.9%, Chavez comes with 22.3% and 9% of the 728 likely Democratic voters in the 1st Congressional district who responded to the automatic phone poll said they were undecided.

The margin of error in the survey is 3.62%.

Griego, a state senator and former ABQ city councilor, has been backed by local and national progressives. Not surprisingly, he leads the race with self-described liberals and Lujan Grisham carries the day with moderate Democrats.

Lujan Grisham, who has made direct appeals to women voters, actually trails Griego in that category, if only by a tad. Griego wins 37% of women to Lujan Grisham's 33%. Chavez gets 22%. But Griego gets 43% of liberals to Lujan Grisham's 34% and Chavez's 18%.

Democratic women are more liberal than Democratic men who tend to be more moderate.

Among men, Lujan Grisham edges out Griego. She gets 37% to Griego's 31%. Chavez gets 23% and the remainder are undecided,

Griego holds a slight lead among Hispanics, but they are bunched up among the three hopefuls all of whom are of Hispanic heritage. Griego scores 35%, Lujan Grisham 29% and Chavez 28%. Anglos give Lujan Grisham 39%, Griego, 34% and Chavez 18%.

Republican Bruce Donisthorpe, a senior vice-president at Manzano Strategies with over 30 years of experience in state politics, supervised the poll. He says the odds are now overwhelming that the Democratic nominee will be either Lujan Grisham or Griego:

If Lujan Grisham can peel moderates away from Chavez and maintain her position with liberals she can win this race. Griego has to maintain his liberal base and work for a heavy turnout among them. Chavez is on a difficult road. He has fallen back by a considerable margin and he needs some kind of Hail Mary in the final days. Lujan Grisham has picked up momentum since the March Democratic  preprimary convention when Griego finished first and Michelle finished a distant third. But Griego is favored in the area of heaviest turnout--the SE Heights.

As for specific neighborhoods, our exclusive poll shows that in the SE Heights of ABQ where Bruce says Dem turnout is expected to be heaviest, Griego scores 40% to Lujan Grisham's 31% and Chavez's 19%.

On ABQ's West Side, Lujan Grisham prevails with 41% to Griego's 28% and Chavez's 23%. In the ABQ North and South Valleys, Griego wins, getting 38% to Lujan Grisham's 34% and Chavez's 20%. In the NE Heights, Lujan Grisham gets 35%, Griego 30% and Chavez 26%.


Lujan Grisham's campaign Tuesday issued an internal poll that showed her and Griego at 35% each and Chavez lagging. Griego released a survey that put him five points ahead and Chavez came with a poll that showed him leading by a point.

The poll conducted for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan is the first independent and public polling on the race.

(Complete cross-tabs for the US House portion of the survey are available here. More on the poll's methodology is here. We will post the US Senate cross-tabs later in the week).


There has been no negative campaigning among the trio on broadcast TV. The candidates have taken jabs at one another through other media, but it has been low-key.

 Lujan Grisham is credited with running well-produced TV spots and for a strong performance in the one and only televised debate. She is a Bernalillo County Commissioner and an attorney. She has received major support from Emily's List and has courted female voters in her TV ads. She ran for the nomination  in 2008, but did not put up nearly the fight she has this time around. She was the last candidate to get in the race and her campaign is not seen as having the field organization that Griego has and that could be a factor come June 5.

Griego is seen as having the most compelling message for ideologically motivated Democrats--many of whom turn out for a primary election. He has also racked up major endorsements from important Dem groups like the Sierra Club and labor unions. He has also raised the most money in the race, counting among his contributors many out of state progressives. All of that in addition to his advantage in the field has given him the title of front-runner, but that is a title he must now share with Lujan Grisham.

Griego has run a professional campaign and has been successful in stifling any public outbreaks of temper which in the past have been a trademark for the ABQ native. He has consolidated liberal votes  which our poll says will make up nearly half the primary votes cast. However, his TV spots have been criticized for their production values and Griego had a so-so performance at the TV debate.


Chavez, the former three term mayor of ABQ, is confronted with an old political demon--his lack of support among the large liberal base in the Democratic Party. He had the same problem when he sought the 2010 Dem nomination for Governor as well as the US Senate nomination in 2008.

As mayor he appealed to Republicans and conservative independents because of his pro-business and pro growth positions, but it left the left out in the cold. Our poll shows Chavez, 60, again paying the price. He is also coming off a 2009 loss for a fourth term as ABQ mayor.

He has put together a capable campaign team and has deep personal knowledge of the political landscape. Those who support him are enthusiastic. But being so far behind his rivals, the question is how he plays his final hand and whether it ultimately benefits Lujan Grisham or his old political nemesis Eric Griego.

Chavez's next move is especially important to Lujan Grisham. Our survey says she is splitting the moderates with him.

The 1st congressional district is ranked as "lean Dem" here, a ranking shared by a number of other pundits. Bernalillo County, which comprises more than 90% of the district and contains the state's largest city of ABQ went deep blue for Obama in 2008 and that trend seems intact.

Donisthorpe also supervised our primary election polling in 2010. That polling correctly identified all the winning candidates in the major races that year.


Martin Heinrich is on his way to a healthy victory--maybe a very healthy one, His 57.3% to 29.1% lead over Hector Balderas (with 13.6% undecided) is built on a blow-the-doors-off performance in his home town. Heinrich, the congressman for the ABQ district, overwhelms Balderas 69% to 23% in the 1st congressional district. Said Donisthorpe:

That's really the only number you need to know. That type of lead in the big city is simply insurmountable. 

In the north Heinrich leads Balderas 52% to 34% with 14% undecided. In the southern congressional district he is ahead 52 to 28% and 20% undecided.

Heinrich is even competitive with Hispanics, the backbone of the campaign of the native born Balderas, Heinrich gets 45% of them while Hector gets 46%. Anglos support Heinrich 3 to 1 over Balderas. Both men and women go heavily for Heinrich.

In the Senate race we surveyed 1,392 voters by automatic phone calls with Dialing Services LLC of Roswell, making for a low margin of error of 2.62%. The results were scaled to reflect the demographic and geographic make-up of the state.

This race has never been competitive with Heinrich raising more money and soundly defeating Balderas at the preprimary convention. Balderas said his performance there was somewhat of an upset but he never built on it.

Heinrich is on his way to facing presumed Republican nominee Heather Wilson for the Senate seat being vacated by Dem Jeff Bingaman. We rank the state "lean Dem" when it comes to the Senate contest, as do a number of other pundits.


Back to Clovis now and that red hot GOP state Senate primary where the stakes skyrocketed when Governor Martinez and her chief political operative Jay McCleskey openly took sides with Angie Spears over rancher Pat Woods. One of our Alligators says Susana has hit the campaign trail, trying to pull out the win:

Governor Martinez traveled to Clayton and Tucumcari with Angie Spears Tuesday.  Spears is still down in the polling...

The intervention of the Guv is resented by some locals and would be among the main reasons for any Spears loss, but with the Guv putting her personal prestige on the line and McCleskey with his back against the wall and scorching Woods, the outcome of the race is far from settled. Our Gator says Martinez was traveling on a plane belonging to Clovis developer Sid Strebeck.


Reader Stanley Allen writes of our coverage of ABQ Public Regulation Commission candidates Al Park and Karen Montoya:

I enjoy reading your daily blog.  You had an inadvertent error in Tuesday's blog where you state: 

"As the lone Hispanic candidate in a Dem primary and one with a previous base of support, Montoya--even under-financed--is a threat to Park."

I believe that both Ms. Montoya and Mr. Park have Hispanic/Latino backgrounds.  Below are two quotes you have written in the past regarding Mr. Park's background.


"His father, a University of Virginia Law School grad, is wrapping up a successful career at Sandia Labs, and previously worked in the Panama Canal Zone, where Al was born to his mother of Venezuelan descent."


"As for ethnicity, Park's background is not all Anglo. He was born in the Panama Canal Zone to a mother of Venezuelan descent. His father is a corporate attorney. Park is not the only high profile figure in his family. He is married to Bernalillo native and attorney Jessica Perez, the 2011 president of the NM Bar Association. She in turn is the daughter of former District Court Judge George Perez who was among the Dems who sought the northern US House seat in 1982 when it was first created." 

Thanks for reminding us of that.

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