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Berry Has Slim Lead Over Chávez, Romero, With Days To Go

By Sean Olson
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          It's a tight race for mayor of Albuquerque, but Richard Berry appeared to have a slight edge over three-term incumbent Martin Chávez 12 days before the Oct. 6 election, a Journal Poll found.
        Richard Romero was a close third in the poll, just two percentage points behind Chávez.
        Thirty-one percent of the registered, likely voters polled last week supported Berry, 26 percent chose Chávez and 24 percent sided with Romero. Nineteen percent were undecided.
        The race clearly isn't over yet, said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll.
        "We have three candidates in striking distance," Sanderoff said.
        If no candidate wins more than 40 percent on Election Day, a runoff would be held Nov. 24 between the top two vote-getters in the Oct. 6 contest.
        Berry's advantage over an incumbent mayor who seemed to have satisfied most voters over the past four years was surprising, Sanderoff said.
        "I don't think anyone doubted Martin Chávez had a large lead a month ago," Sanderoff said. "What it comes down to is Richard Berry and Richard Romero have focused their criticism on Chávez — and this has taken its toll."
        Berry is a general contractor and second-term, Republican state representative. Romero, a retired educator and former state senator, and Chávez both are Democrats. Although the city election is nonpartisan, polling results indicated party affiliation is a factor, Sanderoff said.
        "Berry is consolidating Republican support, taking Republican votes away from Chávez," Sanderoff said. "Romero is splitting Democratic voters with Chávez."
        The Journal Poll found:
        • Voters who called themselves liberals leaned most heavily toward Romero, who had 38 percent support, compared with 28 percent for Chávez.
        • Conservatives favored Berry, who had a little more than half — 53 percent —of those surveyed in his camp.
        • Independent voters, or those who register without stating a party affiliation, were also more likely to choose Berry. Nearly two in five of the independents said they would vote for him. Chávez and Romero each had about one in five of the independents.
        • Geographically, Romero had a lead in the Downtown-valley portion of Albuquerque. Chávez had a lead on the West Side, where he began his political career as a state senator. Berry led the far Northeast Heights and a had a slight edge in the mid-Heights.
        • Voters who identified themselves as Hispanic were mostly split between Chávez and Romero, with Chávez having 37 percent support and Romero getting 30 percent.
        • Anglo voters were more likely to choose Berry — 37 percent — than Romero or Chávez.
        The mayor's race has heated up in the past month, with Berry and Romero hammering Chávez on city spending, crime and his reputation for a prickly personality. Chávez has fought back with advertisements questioning Berry's credentials as a businessman and a conservative.
        Romero has been largely left alone by the other two candidates, with no advertising aimed at his campaign.
        Chávez, who was elected to four-year terms in 1993, 2001 and 2005, bills himself as "Marty in the middle," a reference to what he calls his moderate political philosophy.
        Sanderoff said Chávez has traditionally won elections by garnering support from Democrats, Republicans and independents. His numbers have dropped because he is getting "hit on all sides" from his politically diverse opponents, Sanderoff said.
        Berry might have a better chance than his opponents to win over undecided voters, Sanderoff said. The highest number of undecided voters was in the far Northeast Heights, traditionally a conservative-leaning area.
        The Journal Poll is based on telephone interviews with 406 registered voters who had participated in previous city elections and said they expected to vote this time. They were asked for whom they would vote at the time of the Sept. 22-24 survey. The margin of error for the full, scientific sample is plus or minus five percentage points.

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