With the clock about to run out on the Albuquerque mayoral race, state Auditor Tim Keller has widened his lead over opponent Dan Lewis, according to the latest Journal Poll.
Election Day is Tuesday. The winner takes office Dec. 1.
Keller, a Democrat, is favored by 53 percent of likely voters polled, a 19 percentage point lead over Lewis, a Republican city councilor. In the Oct. 3 election, Keller ended up with a 16-point lead over Lewis in the eight-candidate field.
A runoff was required because no candidate emerged with the required 50 percent of the vote. Albuquerque hasn’t had a mayoral runoff since 1993, when Martin Chávez narrowly defeated David Cargo.
“Keller has exceeded the magic 50 percent number, which candidates rarely rest easy until they meet,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., the firm that conducted the scientific survey.
For the poll, 618 likely voters were asked: If the election for mayor of Albuquerque was held today and the candidates were Timothy Keller and Dan Lewis, who would you vote for? The order of the candidates was randomized.
Lewis had support from 34 percent of likely voters, while 13 percent were undecided. The telephone survey was conducted Nov. 7-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
“Obviously after the first mayoral election, Dan Lewis had an uphill battle, given the fact that he was significantly behind Keller during that first round, and Albuquerque voting patterns have been turning more blue in recent years,” Sanderoff said, noting that Bernalillo County voters overwhelmingly supported Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election.
He said that while city races are nonpartisan, meaning that party affiliations don’t appear on the ballot, Lewis has distinguished himself as the conservative candidate in debates, ads and other campaign materials, while Keller has established himself as the progressive candidate.
“The biggest predictor of candidate preference is party affiliation, despite the fact that this is a nonpartisan race,” Sanderoff said.
In the Journal Poll, Keller had support from 81 percent of Democrats, while Lewis had support from just 10 percent of Democrats. Conversely, among Republicans, Lewis’ support stood at 68 percent, with Keller at 18 percent.
“Keller has more Republicans than Lewis has Democrats,” Sanderoff said.
He said the strongest regions for Keller are the mid-southeast/Northeast Heights and the valley/Downtown area. And as with previous Journal polls, Sanderoff said, “we see that Keller is performing better among women and highly educated voters, those with graduate degrees.”
Sanderoff said that one of the reasons for Keller’s significant lead is that he is doing better among independent voters, garnering support from 45 percent of them. Lewis had support from 31 percent of independent voters polled; 24 percent of them were still undecided.
“The region where Dan Lewis is performing best is in the far Northeast Heights,” Sanderoff said. “I suspect he’s doing fairly well in his West Side city councilor district.”
The campaign Lewis has run during the runoff has been much more aggressive than the one he ran during the initial mayoral election. In recent weeks, he has launched attack ads against Keller and gone on the offensive in debates.
Sanderoff said that’s not surprising.
“Dan Lewis had little choice but to run a hard-hitting campaign,” he said. “We all know that crime is the biggest issue facing Albuquerque, and Dan Lewis really highlighted that issue, both as to how he would be tough on crime and accusing his opponent of being soft on crime. That was a necessary strategic move to try to sway voters.”
Sanderoff said Lewis’ best shot at an upset is to go after undecided independents and young voters. And, he said, “there are more undecided Republicans than Democrats, which is good news for Lewis. Democrats have pretty much made up their minds, whereas there are still significant numbers of Republicans and independents who haven’t.”
Another bright spot for Lewis is the District 5 City Council runoff, which will also be decided Tuesday, Sanderoff said. District 5 is the council seat Lewis currently occupies. Lewis is well known in that district, and that might benefit him from a turnout perspective.
“For Lewis to win, he needs to pick up the lion’s share of undecideds as well as shifting some Keller supporters over to his camp,” Sanderoff said. “Also, Lewis would have to have an impressive Election Day turnout among his supporters, particularly Republicans.”
For the Journal Poll, Research & Polling surveyed a random sample of those who voted in last month’s municipal election. All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone. Both cellphone numbers (50 percent) and landlines (50 percent) were called.