Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
In a climate where worries about high crime rates have dominated nearly every campaign, a new Journal Poll found Democrat John Allen has the lead over Republican Paul Pacheco in the race to be Bernalillo County sheriff.
However, a sizable percentage of voters are still undecided.
A total of 42% of voters said they would vote for – or already had voted for – Allen compared to 36% who said the same about Pacheco. Among the remainder, 6% said they favored Libertarian Kaelan Ashby Dreyer and 15% said they were undecided. One percent wouldn’t say who they were going to vote for.
“If this was 2018, I’d say this race is over – but it’s not,” said Brian Sanderoff, the president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll. “We’re in this environment where people are concerned about crime and so I think the quality of their campaigns in the closing days could have an impact on it.”
Dreyer, who has no law enforcement experience and is running as a self-described protest candidate, is more popular among Democrats than among Republicans, with 4% and 1% of those voters favoring him respectively. Sanderoff said this could be due to his progressive message and it means his candidacy could hurt Allen more than Pacheco.
Sanderoff described the race as “unusual,” “interesting” and “competitive” and pointed to the Democratic and Republican candidates’ support among members of the opposing party.
“The crossover vote on party affiliation is bigger in this race than all the other races that we’ve seen,” he said. “In other words, Pacheco has 13% support among Democrats and Allen has 11% support among Republicans … Those percentages are larger than any of the other races in the Journal Poll.”
He said this could be due to the fact that the two men have similar backgrounds. Both are former law enforcement officers – Allen with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and Pacheco with the Albuquerque Police Department – who were born and raised in the city.
“They’ve had long careers in the area and have, I’m sure, made lots of friends and have lots of family and acquaintances that they’ve met and encountered throughout their long life and career in Albuquerque,” Sanderoff said. “So you’re bound to know people of opposite parties who are going to support you.”
The two candidates dominated the field in crowded races for their party’s nomination during the primaries. Allen garnered 42% of the vote, beating out six other Democrats and Pacheco bested three other Republicans with 48% of the vote.
However, Sanderoff said it remains a “low profile race” in terms of name recognition. This means that negative ads and mailers could have more of an effect on how people vote.
“If you have two candidates who are virtually unknown before this campaign and the campaign starts running negative ads, I think those ads could have potentially more of an impact or could be more influential in impacting public opinion because the voters haven’t formed an impression of the respective candidates,” he said.
Pacheco’s campaign has been running a TV ad calling Allen a “dirty cop” because he was sued for an unlawful search as a New Mexico State Police officer in the late 1990s. That case settled for $30,000.
Allen has said he received verbal consent to search the car but not a toolbox in the bed of the truck where drugs were found and that he should have communicated more clearly with other officers and further reviewed evidence before court.
Meanwhile Allen’s campaign has been saying Pacheco is pronounced like “Pinocchio” – calling him a liar and pointing to a column in the Santa Fe New Mexican that notes that in recent ads he has changed the pronunciation of his name from Pah-CHEEK-o to Pah-CHECK-o.
Pacheco told the Journal in September that he has Portuguese and Spanish heritage and the pronunciation “back East,” where his family is from, is “Pah-CHEEK-o.” He said he promised his mother on her deathbed that he would pronounce it that way but he also says “Pah-CHECK-o” sometimes so as not to offend people.
“In our survey we pronounced his name ‘Pah-CHEEK-o’ because that’s what he goes by – what he went by as a legislator, that’s what he went by in his early ads,” Sanderoff said. “When you see the name on the ballot in the voting booth, you’re going to see Pacheco and that could create some interesting dynamics.”
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, countywide sample of 385 voters who cast ballots in the 2018 and/or 2020 general election and who said they are likely to vote in the upcoming election. The sample also includes people who registered to vote since January 2021 who said they are likely to vote in the upcoming election.
The poll was conducted from Oct. 20 through Oct. 27. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 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 (85%) and landlines (15%) of proven general election voters were used.