Incumbent Tim Keller has a sizable lead over his challengers in the homestretch of the Albuquerque mayor’s race and may be poised to win a second term without a runoff, according to a new Journal Poll.
Over half of the city’s likely voters – 53% – say they already have or would vote for Keller, more than the two other candidates on the ballot combined. Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales polled at 20%, while radio host Eddy Aragon is at 13%.
Results of the poll, conducted by Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., show 12% of voters remain undecided.
Keller has campaigned as a candidate with a practical plan, citing his four years of experience and a number of programs already in motion, while Gonzales has touted his tough-on-crime approach as the answer to the city’s current challenges. Aragon, who has never held elected office, has cast himself as an alternative to career politicians who can tackle the issues with a new perspective.
Although the mayoral and Albuquerque City Council races are technically nonpartisan, the new poll indicates strong differences based on party.
Keller, a Democrat, has a commanding lead among Democrats, with support from 78% of those polled.
Gonzales is also a registered Democrat but has far more conservative stances and actually fares better among Republicans than with those in his own party. He has support from just 8% of Democrats compared with 38% of Republicans.
“Keller is a progressive Democrat, and many Democrats are progressive, so they’re sticking with Keller,” said Research & Polling Inc. President Brian Sanderoff. “(Gonzales) is a Democrat, but he hasn’t been advertising it.”
Aragon, a radio station owner and conservative talk show host, is the only Republican on the ballot, a fact he has heavily touted. He has 29% of the Republican vote, the poll shows.
Gonzales and Aragon are battling for Republicans, who Sanderoff said will represent approximately a third of the voters in this election. That works in Keller’s favor.
“For Keller to lose, at a minimum you’d need for the Republicans to get behind a particular candidate, and that’s not happening,” Sanderoff said.
Aragon entered the race late, waiting until late July to mount his ballot-qualifying push. He has likely attracted voters who would otherwise have cast ballots for Gonzales, the pollster said.
That was supported by the poll, which showed that more than half those who planned to vote for Gonzales selected Aragon as their second choice and those who planned to vote for Aragon named Gonzales as their second choice.
Albuquerque’s city charter requires that mayoral candidates get at least 50% of the vote to win the office; in cases where no candidate reaches that threshold, the top two contenders move to a runoff.
Keller won his first mayoral campaign in 2017 in a runoff, but Sanderoff said the results show “there’s a good chance” he can avoid that second round in 2021.
The election is Nov. 2, although early voting commenced Oct. 5 and is offered in-person at 20 locations in the Albuquerque area through Oct. 30.
The 2021 mayoral race has been a wild ride, from a flying sex toy interrupting an early Gonzales campaign event to the sheriff’s high-profile – and ultimately unsuccessful – fight to get public financing for his bid. Each mayoral candidate has faced at least one campaign ethics complaint, some of which will not make it before the city’s Board of Ethics & Campaign Practices until after Election Day.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, citywide sample of 536 likely regular local election voters, including those who voted in the 2017 and/or 2019 local elections and a small sample of newly registered voters likely to vote in 2021.
The poll was conducted from Oct. 15 through Oct. 21. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both cellphone numbers (82%) and landlines (18%) were used.