2021 ABQ Mayoral Race

ABQ Election Analysis: Don’t Blame Fraud When Ignorance Will Do

After another disappointing loss in Albuquerque, the Right-leaning conspiracy theorists were pounding keyboards after Election Day to justify why the Duke City once again sent a failed Progressive to city hall.

It’s a natural response, a form of political self-preservation, to grasp at any justification that shifts blame from the loser to the cheater.

Twitter is not real life. Online polling is not accurate. But still…

But not everything needs a conspiracy. There’s a saying, called Hanlon’s Razor, Never attribute to malice what is more simply explained by stupidity. 

While the justifications range from “voter suppression” using newspaper polls to outright rigging of voting machines, ignorance is a much better explanation for Albuquerque staying mostly blue Tuesday night. And the data backs that up.

ASK YOURSELF

If the voting machines are to blame for Democrats winning, why did Republicans sweep elections in Virginia, where Dominion voting machines are used?

If Dominion is switching votes to elect Democrats, why did Republican Dan Lewis unseat the Democrat incumbent by a 12.4-point margin?

Either the corrupt leaders of our state are getting screwed by Dominion’s evil overlords, or there’s a more reasonable explanation for why Democrats usually win in New Mexico: there are more of them.

In Congressional District 1, comprising Bernalillo County and Albuquerque, 47% of registered voters are Democrat, compared to 28% Republican. 

It’s a deep blue district, and it’s not unreasonable that a third of registered Independents would cast ballots for the Democrat in this year’s mayoral race (pushing Keller to 56% on Election Day).

It is unfortunate that Keller won re-election. His policies have not only failed to make Albuquerque safer, but they have actually contributed to higher homicide rates and a doubling of homelessness in four years. While we accurately predicted Keller’s win, we can’t gloat about another loss. It’s bad news for Conservatives, and it’s even more ominous for the Duke City. But the writing was on the wall, as they say, and the polling was once again accurate.

POLLS RIGHT AGAIN

The Albuquerque Journal’s pollster, Brian Sanderoff, of Research & Polling Inc., sometimes gets a bad rap, but unless you believe his polls are fixed to align with a rigged election system — and obviously some do — he deserves credit.

Sanderoff predicted Keller’s outcome within 3% (the poll had him at 53%; Keller secured 56%, according to election data). Out of the three polls conducted in the mayoral race (the others were KOB4 and The Paper.), the Journal was the most accurate — by a large margin. The KOB4 poll was off by 15%, The Paper. was off by 9%. 

And Sanderoff wasn’t just right about Keller. He predicted Republican Eddy Aragon’s performance within 5.4% and Manny Gonzales’ within 5.6%. 

This isn’t Sanderoff’s first rodeo. He has been consistently accurate. The Journal poll in 2017 had Keller at 53% and Republican Dan Lewis at 38%. Sanderoff hit Lewis’ percentage on the head. Keller won 62%, outperforming the poll by 9%, versus Lewis’ 38%

All of this data is easily explained away by the conspiracy theorists. Rigged is rigged, and there’s no convincing them otherwise. 

But for the reasonable folks out there, ask yourself: If polls serve not to gauge the race but to influence it — depressing turnout by making Republicans feel like their votes don’t matter — and if you believe the election outcome is fixed, why would the polls underrepresent the Democrat’s performance by 9% (and 3% in 2021)?

If the fix is in and the pollsters are part of the conspiracy, why would a corrupt pollster not sink the screws into Republican enthusiasm by rigging the poll results to align with the much higher eventual results? A poll putting Keller at 62% would be significantly more damning to Republican enthusiasm than 54%.

The conspiracy falls apart even more when you consider other races.

Sanderoff wasn’t just accurate in predicting the Democrat winner. In 2013, Sanderoff predicted Republican Richard Berry would win the mayor’s race with 63% of the vote. He won with 68%.

The conspiracies just don’t add up. 

THE STANDOUT

The standout of the night was obviously Eddy Aragon. The Republican’s highest showing in the polls was KOB4’s 18%, which was less than a half a percentage point from the actual election results. The Journal put Aragon at 13%, and The Paper. had him at 11% (though, in its defense, The Paper. poll was conducted a month earlier than the other two, with a full fifth of the respondents unsure who they were going to vote for).

Aragon’s Election Day turnout represented 44% of his total votes, compared to 38% for Gonzales and 32% for Keller. That 44% also beat Lewis’ Election Day turnout in 2017 (38%). Republicans vote on Election Day (versus early voting) at higher rates than Democrats. They did for Aragon this year and at higher rates than previous Republican mayoral candidates.

For the critics who predicted Aragon would end the campaign in the low single digits, 18% is impressive — particularly considering he entered the race late and thus campaigned for less than three months.

This was the basis for our pre-election prediction that he wouldn’t make it to the runoff. In our endorsement, the average of our editorial board’s predictions put Keller securing a re-election without a runoff with 55.7% (we were off by 0.3%), Gonzales would take 26.7% (off by 1.1%), and Aragon would receive 17.6% (off by 0.8%).

We encouraged voting for Aragon on principle — “a principled Conservative wouldn’t compromise their values just because their guy isn’t the odds-on favorite” — but predicted that the outcome would not go our way — “because Albuquerque voters are Liberal, politics favors personality over policy, and Aragon got into the race too late.”

To garner 18.4% in a few months is notable, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that with more exposure and a five- or six-month campaign, he could have built on his momentum and made a stronger showing.

But the facts remain that only 28% of the district is Republican, it sent Democrat Melanie Stansbury to Washington representing with 60.4% of the vote, and its voters’ overwhelming support of COVID vaccine mandates was the nail in the coffin for Aragon, who was the only unvaccinated candidate in the race. 

UNSPOILED

For those who believe Aragon was a spoiler, the election results prove otherwise. Gonzales had no shot at beating Keller, and there are myriad reasons for it. His campaign was embroiled in scandal from day one with allegations of voter fraud (as well as fines, reprimands, and endless and unsuccessful court appearances). His debate performances were unimpressive, his repeated requests to “please repeat the question” made him seems unintelligent and unsure of his own platform, and his last-ditch effort to swing the election by accusing the incumbent of an extra-marital affair and police cover-ups was low, undignified, and still unsubstantiated. 

Based on the numbers alone, Aragon’s presence in the race wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the election. Assuming Aragon only took votes away from Gonzales (it’s reasonable to assume he didn’t pull many Progressives from Keller’s camp), Gonzales would still have finished at 44% — 12% under Keller. 

Did Aragon do damage to Gonzales during the campaign? Probably. He was as critical of Gonzales’ record on crime as sheriff as he was of Keller’s as mayor. But it’s pure speculation to claim that Gonzales would have done better without Aragon in the race. One could just as easily argue that he would have done worse, as Republicans would have been even less enthusiastic with a Gonzales alternative to Keller had Aragon not been in the race.

Which brings us to turnout.

HIGH TURNOUT = ANTI-KELLER

Unofficial election results put turnout at 22% higher than in 2017. Obviously a good chunk of those voters were the Democrat sheep who want to impose vaccine mandates as a condition of employment (63% of Albuquerque, according to The Journal poll). 

But not all of them.

Keller’s vote tally only increased 10 percent since his last election — from 60,219 votes in 2017 to 66,251 in 2021. The non-Keller vote increased 42.5%, from 36,594 in ’17 to 52,152.

Maybe there’s a silver lining in there — that four times as many non-Progressives were excited about the race than Progressives.

It just wasn’t enough.

So while Albuquerque may be doomed to years of Democrat rule, at least the culprit is idiocy more so than fraud. 

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