State Auditor Tim Keller still has a significant lead in the Albuquerque mayor’s race, but support for City Councilor Dan Lewis has surged, and he has overtaken attorney Brian Colón for second place, according to the latest Journal Poll.
Election Day is Tuesday.
“Tim Keller is maintaining his lead as the undecideds drop,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., the firm that conducted the scientific survey. “And we may be seeing signs of Dan Lewis breaking away from some of the other candidates who have been clustered with him.”
Keller, a Democrat, gained four points in the two weeks since the previous Journal Poll, claiming support from 29 percent of likely voters in the telephone survey, conducted Sept. 26-28.
Support for Lewis, a Republican, grew to 18 percent, a 5 point bump. Colón, a Democrat, remained at 14 percent.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican, saw his support grow by 3 points. He is now polling at 10 percent.
The other candidates in the race polled at 4 percent or below.
The number of undecideds in this poll, meanwhile, dropped from 32 to 18 percent, which was expected given that Election Day is nearing. The poll suggests that a runoff is still very likely.
“I still believe it’s highly unlikely that any candidate will exceed 50 percent support among the voters,” Sanderoff said, noting that even if Keller were to pick up all of the undecideds, which wouldn’t happen, he still wouldn’t reach the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
While the names of eight mayoral candidates will appear on the ballot, businessman Ricardo Chaves, a Republican, has dropped out of the race and asked Republicans to get behind Lewis. Two-thirds of the likely voters who took part in the Journal Poll had already been interviewed when Chaves made his announcement late Thursday afternoon.
“I think the most exciting thing in this race is going to be who takes second place, assuming there’s a runoff,” Sanderoff said. “If that outcome is determined by less than 1 percentage point, then every vote counts.”
He said Chaves throwing his support to Lewis is “only going to make a difference if it’s an extremely close race because Chaves was polling at 1 percent. But it’s still publicity.”
Even before Chaves’ endorsement, Lewis’ support among Republicans was growing.
“Lewis’ ascension is partially explained by increasing support levels among Republicans,” Sanderoff said. “He’s gone from 26 percent to 38 percent among Republicans. He’s gone up 12 points.”
Sanderoff said Lewis’ anti-crime message appears to be resonating with Republican voters. But he said Johnson’s support among Republicans has also grown from 16 to 21 percent. And Johnson is going after Lewis, airing a television ad that likens Lewis to Barney Fife.
“A Republican attacking a fellow Republican has the potential of either helping Wayne Johnson or conceivably making this into a runoff between Democrats,” Sanderoff said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of rumbling going on in Republican circles regarding this strategic move of the Johnson campaign.”
Neither Lewis nor Johnson has much support from Democrats. Lewis was polling at 4 percent while Johnson was at 1 percent among those voters.
“Among Democrats, Keller has got a big lead,” Sanderoff said. “He’s at 46 percent to Colón’s 20.”
But he said neither Keller nor Colón have much Republican support. Keller picked up 10 percent of those voters, and Colón picked up 7 percent.
“But one of the reasons that Keller is in the lead is because he’s also performing well among independents,” Sanderoff said. “He’s in first place with independents with 25 percent compared to Johnson and Lewis with 15 and 12 percent, respectively.”
Colón, meanwhile, continues to poll the best among Hispanics, drawing support from 25 percent of those voters, while Keller continues to do well among people with graduate degrees.
“As education level increases, support for Keller increases,” Sanderoff said.
For the survey, 618 likely voters were asked: “If the election for mayor of Albuquerque were held today and the candidates were Ricardo Chaves, Brian Colón, Michelle Garcia Holmes, Wayne Johnson, Timothy Keller, Dan Lewis, Gus Pedrotty and Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, whom would you vote for?” The order of the candidates was randomized.
Independent Garcia Holmes, a retired detective and former attorney general chief of staff, and Pedrotty, a Democrat and recent University of New Mexico graduate, each received support from 4 percent of voters in the Journal Poll. Independent Wheeler-Deichsel, co-founder of Urban ABQ, and Chaves each received 1 percent of the vote in the poll.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone. Both cellphone numbers (48 percent) and landlines (52 percent) of proven municipal election voters were used.
“It’s a battle for second place to make it into a runoff, assuming there is a runoff, with Keller pretty much in the driver’s seat,” Sanderoff said.
He added that undecided voters were more likely to be female and not college graduates.
“That’s where the candidates should be focusing in the closing days,” he said.
Sanderoff said that based on early voting, which ended Friday, Democrats appear to be energized.
“The Democrats had impressive turnout levels during early voting compared to four years ago,” Sanderoff said. “Will that continue on Election Day, or will the Republicans get more energized and back their candidates on Tuesday? We don’t know.”