*Editor’s Note: Ahead of local elections, The Paper. commissioned the first public poll (793 likely voters, margin of error 3.5% +/-) to determine what voters think about candidates for mayor and school board positions, as well as public opinion on the proposed stadium bonds, vaccine mandates for APS and who voters think is most responsible for lagging APD reform. The results, like all of our articles, will be free to the public this week. Supporters of The Paper. get results early. Become a supporter today.
More than half of the city’s most likely voters agree on one thing: Keller has not yet convinced them he deserves a second term.
53% of likely Albuquerque voters recently polled say they haven’t decided yet or that they will vote for a candidate other than Tim Keller for mayor. But those who want someone else can’t agree on who else they want.
Not quite there: The poll, conducted by The Paper. and Public Policy Polling, surveyed 798 likely Albuquerque voters on September 23 through 24. Results indicate that Mayor Keller is just shy of winning support from a majority of voters with 47 percent ready to give the mayor another 4 years. Of the other two men on the ballot, neither is earning enough support to be a formidable challenge to Keller. Just 21 percent of voters are ready to install Sheriff Manny Gonzales in city hall. Only 11 percent want Republican Eddy Aragon. Combined the two men still don’t earn as many votes as Keller seems to have already secured and Keller only needs to sway a small percentage of undecided voters to get over the 50 percent mark.
Let’s take a look at how voters see the race, then detail a few options for where this goes next.
A little bit of buyer’s remorse? After a turbulent year under a pandemic and with violent crime reaching all-time highs, almost 1/3 of Keller’s 2017 voters aren’t ready to vote for him again. Almost 20 percent of respondents who say they voted for the mayor four years ago now have an unfavorable opinion of him and another 12 percent say they still don’t know. Keller’s easiest path to reaching the 50 percent plus one threshold requires him to convince his previous supporters that he deserves a second term (or that he’s the best of three bad options, from their perspective).
Eddy Who? If you are a diehard conservative talk radio fan you probably know Eddy Aragon. But in a city with a 15-plus percent Democratic registration advantage, right-wing radio listeners don’t make up enough voters to make a man mayor. Across the board, poll respondents indicated they did not know who Aragon is, to the tune of 63 percent. Those are simply insurmountable odds for a candidate who had raised just $13,000 in his last report.
Nobody likes the Sheriff: The lone registered Republican in the race does, however, pull votes away from the race’s other conservative, Democrat Sheriff Manny Gonzales. Some 27 percent of voters say they would vote for Gonzales in a runoff election after voting for Aragon in the first election. Even if every single one of those voters went to Gonzales, it still wouldn’t be enough for the sheriff to secure more than 50 percent for the win.
In an area of the state which recently votes for Democrats by more than 10 percentage points, it is no surprise that Manny Gonzales is unpopular after having tied himself to former President Trump and his political ideology. Literally rubbing elbows with the twice-impeached president during a pandemic didn’t increase his favorability with the city’s Democratic base. Add in non-stop coverage of campaign fraud and overseeing a larger crime increase in the county than the city he wants to run and it’s no surprise that just 24 percent of voters see the sheriff favorably.
What’s even more interesting is Gonzales’ unpopularity with Hispanic voters—almost half (45 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of Gonzales. It all makes sense when you consider the sheriff’s opposition to popular immigrant-friendly policies, his clinging to Donald Trump and his campaign’s very public admission of forgery and election fraud.
Even Trump voters aren’t excited about Manny. One in five voters who said they voted for Trump over Biden say they have an unfavorable opinion of the sheriff. Will Manny convince these voters to hold their nose, or will they stay home? Some are voting for Republican Eddy Aragon. Others may just sit this one out. Both scenarios are bad news for the sheriff who needs a broad coalition to get to 50 percent.
What now? Tim Keller has majority support among women, both younger voters and older voters, Hispanic voters, and among Democrats or those who voted for Joe Biden in 2020. Although his overall favorability is in the red, 21 percent of likely voters are still undecided. That includes those 12 percent of his previous supporters who are still persuadable. Keller’s next 30 days are all about earning enough of those votes to get over 50 percent and avoid a runoff.
For Gonzales, the only way forward (and there isn’t really a viable one) requires him to raise enough private money to compete with Keller’s $660,000 in publicly-funded ads and force a runoff in a head-to-head contest with Keller in December when fewer voters will show up. But the data says that even if that happens, most voters have a negative opinion of Gonzales and more people have a reason to vote against him than for him.
Runoff?: If Mayor Keller can’t reach 50 percent plus 1 vote, city ordinance requires a runoff election, this year on December 7. Gonzales would also, likely, reach that runoff with the second-highest level of support. However, Gonzales’ unfavorability is so high that Keller is almost predetermined to win at a runoff. Perhaps Keller can sway some voters concerned with fiscal responsibility so as to save the city $1 million on a citywide runoff election.