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Poll shows Lujan Grisham leads Pearce by 7 points

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Less than two months before November’s high-stakes midterm election, a new poll shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham leading Republican Steve Pearce in the race to be New Mexico’s next governor.

According to the poll conducted for the Albuquerque Journal by Research and Polling Inc. of Albuquerque, Lujan Grisham leads Pearce in the race for governor 50 to 43 percent. Another 7 percent either said they were undecided or did not say who they were planning to cast a ballot for in November.

“On one hand it is only a seven point lead, but on the other hand, the fact that she is at 50 percent and there are relatively few undecideds, means that Steve Pearce would have to pick up the remaining undecideds and perhaps peel off a few Lujan Grisham voters,” Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc, said Monday.

“That’s what we are seeing happening now,” he said.

Both sides have begun airing negative television spots criticizing each other, part of what Sanderoff said is an effort by each candidate to pick up support from the less enthusiastic voters who back their opponent.

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The scientific poll of 966 registered New Mexico voters who cast ballots in the 2014 and 2016 elections was conducted between Sept. 7 and 13. The poll was taken of voters using both landline and cellular phones.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Lujan Grisham, a three-term U.S. representative in New Mexico’s First Congressional District from Albuquerque, and Pearce, a longtime representative in New Mexico’s Second Congressional District, which includes Roswell — are locked in a race to succeed Republican Susana Martinez. Martinez is unable to run for a third term due to term limits.

Sunday’s Journal article about the poll shows Lujan Grisham leads 87 to 8 percent among Democrats and 61 to 32 percent among Hispanics. Pearce meanwhile leads among Republicans 86 to 7 percent, 55 to 37 percent among independents and 50 to 45 percent among whites.

Sanderoff said both candidates have strong areas of support typical of their parties with the more conservative Republican east likely to go for Pearce by a 40-point margin. Lujan Grisham will have similar success in such Democratic strongholds as Santa Fe, Taos and Silver City.

The poll shows Lujan Grisham defeating Pearce 68 to 22 percent in north central New Mexico and 53 to 41 percent in in the Albuquerque metro area. It shows Pearce carries the eastern part of the state — which includes Roswell and his hometown of Hobbs — 62 to 33 percent.

“Those two regions tend to offset each other, so then the race is decided in other parts of the state,” Sanderoff said.

Lujan Grisham, whose district includes Albuquerque, is also likely to do better in that area, Sanderoff said. The poll shows her outperforming Pearce in the Albuquerque metro area 53 to 41 percent.

He said Pearce is unlikely to win Albuquerque, but he has to reduce Lujan Grisham’s margin of victory in that area.

“He’s not going to win Albuquerque, but he has to keep his losses down,” Sanderoff added.

Pearce has, since the primaries, portrayed himself as someone willing to campaign in parts of the state Republicans usually ignore.

Sanderoff said although Pearce has never won a majority of the Hispanic vote in his U.S. House races, he has always had good support for a Republican.

“So the question is, can he continue with that track record?” asked Sanderoff.

Victory for Lujan Grisham meanwhile will likely depend on how well she does in Las Cruces.

Although Las Cruces has recently had a much more Democratic tilt, Pearce, whose congressional district includes Las Cruces, is popular within his current district and will do better than most Republicans.

Because of his hometown advantage, Lujan Grisham will have to work harder in the Las Cruces area than Democrats usually do.

She also has to make sure her base gets out to vote.

“So she has to inspire her base to get those mainstream Democrats out to the polls,” Sanderoff said.

As for the tone of the race, Sanderoff said he expects it to get worse.

“I think it is going to get nasty and it just started a few weeks ago,” he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.