I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Public financing makes ABQ mayoral race more surprising
The poll that injected new life into Albuquerque’s mayoral race will be old news on election day, says Brian Sanderoff, who heads up the company that did the poll, Research & Polling, Inc.
“It’ll be ancient history on election day,” he said. “I’d rather have done it one week out from the election.”
Sanderoff’s team conducted the Albuquerque Journal poll almost two weeks prior to this Tuesday’s vote. Conducted Sept. 22-24, and presented to the public in the Journal on Sept. 27, it showed 31 percent going for State Rep. Richard Berry, 26 percent for incumbent mayor Martin Chavez, and 24 percent for former State Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero.
Since then, the candidates have been in a mad dash for the 19 percent who were still undecided.
With these numbers, the big question is whether one of the candidates can get to 40 percent and avoid a run-off. The margin of error in Sanderoff’s poll is 5 points in either direction, which means Tuesday’s results could break in any direction. There hasn’t been another public poll to give us an idea of how the electorate has shifted.
Sanderoff said that fewer polls are being conducted in this race, partially because under public financing, candidates have less money to pay for polls. In previous elections, candidates have paid for their own polls and leaked the results to the press. But that hasn’t happened so far this year.
That’s why the Albuquerque Journal poll continues to “make waves” to a degree he hasn’t seen in a long while. He’s gotten a lot more response than usual, he said, with a marked increase in calls, emails, people he doesn’t know stopping him on the street, not to mention the interest shown in Santa Fe on a recent visit he made to the City Different.
“Legislators all over the state are talking about the poll and following the mayor’s race,” he said, “which is not normal.”
The poll may have surprised the political class because it didn’t confirm the suspicion that some have had since Albuquerque voters gave themselves a public financing system back in 2005.
Many thought the mayor’s race in 2009 would show that when the playing field is leveled in terms of money, the incumbent’s name recognition and ability to tap City Hall resources would give him a big leg up in the race.
University of New Mexico political science professor Timothy Krebs, who studies urban politics, said in an interview that the poll challenged his assumptions that public financing would protect the incumbent.
“My assumption is that these systems protect the incumbent if the amount of funds is set too low, and I thought that might be the case here,”he said, “but it doesn’t appear to have hurt the challengers. The targeting of voters is so much more sophisticated now, candidates can get their messages out to really specific groups, making spending much more efficient.”
Chavez’s two competitors began hammering away at him as soon as they qualified for public financing back in April. They did it sometimes in tandem, at other times trading off, and have basically ignored one another.
But Chavez didn’t begin officially campaigning until mid-July, perhaps because he had only a fraction of the amount of funds he had back in 2005, when he used $1.2 million to blanket the city in political ads.
“He was sort of coy early on,” Krebs said. “It could be that Chavez made a strategic error in not responding to the attacks of his two opponents, sooner.”
Chavez instead began rolling out a campaign in July focused on his administrations accomplishments while playing defense against the other two. He began going after his opponents records in about mid-September.
How it will play out on Tuesday is anyone’s guess. If there’s a run-off, it’ll happen on Nov. 24.
Albuquerque City Clerk Randy Autio told NMI last week that a run-off would be an entirely new election. Each candidate would receive a third of the public funds they received for the general election — which will be roughly $109, 000 — and the same rules will apply all over again.
For more information about the election, see the League of Women Voters’ Election Guide.