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Anti-Incumbent Sentiment Still Strong

I’m man enough to admit that I’m shocked by the polling numbers released from the mayoral race this weekend in the Albuquerque Journal:

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.

Now, my surprise does not come as a result that more voters think RJ Berry would make a better mayor than politics as usual Mayor Marty Chavez. I’ve always been a fan of RJ Berry’s [disclosure: contributed to RJ Berry campaign in the past]. But, I was convinced that the limits imposed on the campaign as a result of public financing would provide a benefit for the incumbent that would be insurmountable.

This still may be the case. However, I do think there is something else going on here. A lot has already be written about the way that the two Democratic candidates in the race are splitting the vote and that the politics as usual incumbent is bleeding conservative votes to… well, to the more conservative candidate. But, I think there is something more going on here.

In 2008, incumbents were swept out of office. Sure, it was a huge Democratic sweep. But, it was just as much an anti-incumbent sweep. People wanted new blood. They voted for “change.”

The Obama administration and the Democrats now in control of the Congress misunderstood this vote for change to mean the country was endorsing a shift to the left and bigger government programs. This wasn’t and isn’t the case at all. The vast majority of Americans are not extremist – neither right nor left. Instead, they are firmly planted in the center.

So, the change they were voting for was against the incumbents, and the direction in which they were taking our country, which ironically enough was towards bigger government programs. Now, it seems to me that the anti-incumbent sentiment has not subsided. It is still alive and well.

If the 12-year mayor rightly gets voted out of office, it should serve as a warning to the other incumbents running for office in 2010. Our budgets are in the red. Our school systems are failing. Everyday more of our family, friends and neighbors are losing their jobs and their homes while big government rewards big business with taxpayers funds.

It’s going to be harder and harder for the incumbents to convince folks they’re part of the solution when the the truth is that they created the problem.