“And yes, he is a Republican.” This is how Governor Susana Martinez introduced newly re-elected Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry on Tuesday night. Not only did Mayor Berry win re-election, he won in astounding fashion, crushing his Democrat opponent by 39 points. Berry earned 68% of the vote in a city Barack Obama carried by 17 points in 2012.
Berry was the first Republican to be elected Mayor in 25 year when he first won the office in 2009. But his 2013 election night margin was unprecedented for a candidate of either party dating back to 1974 when Albuquerque’s current voting system was put into place.
Governor Martinez was right when she said, “Mayor Berry has shown how a real leader can bring people together and solve problems.” Mayor Berry’s approach runs in sharp contrast to the dysfunction in Washington.
The campaign pitted Berry, a results-oriented mayor, against a Democrat whose campaign was based on his opening line, “I’m a Democrat and I will protect a woman’s right to choose.” Apparently, Democrats thought this would be enough to disqualify Berry among the decidedly more Democrat electorate in Albuquerque. They felt they had their ace in the hole when Berry publicly expressed his personal support for a late term abortion ban that will be on the ballot in Albuquerque in November.
Our polling on behalf of the Mayor highlighted the futility of the Democrat effort. Two weeks from the election, the Mayor maintained very high favorables (66%) and a commanding ballot lead over 60% that included the support of 73% of soft Democrats. Demonstrating the breadth of his appeal, Berry had huge margins among 2012 voters who had not previously voted in a municipal election (62%). Importantly, Berry also held significant advantages on attributes we were concerned might drop if the Democrat attacks were working. But, on one important attribute — cares about the issues that are important to me — Berry held a 50%-29% advantage over his Democrat opponent.
Voter saw past the party labels and abortion fear-mongering driven by Democrats. Instead, they saw a mayor who was refreshingly non-partisan in his approach … and get this … optimistic in his outlook. What they saw was a mayor who cut a $90 million dollar deficit without laying off city workers, raising taxes or cutting services; a mayor who helped Albuquerque turn the corner and add 7,000 jobs to weather a tough national recession; a mayor who initiated a homeless program that got 250 people off the streets and into housing while saving the city thousands of dollars; a greatly expanded citywide recycling program; and enhancement of quality of life aspects like bike trails that make Albuquerque a great place to live.
Voters responded, and a Republican mayor in a Democratic city won convincingly.
Yes, it is possible to be a Republican and to hold to fundamental party principles and win elections even in tough circumstances. But it does require leadership and a real attention to the people served.