The El Paso Times released polling data about the two state rep primaries and I'll dedicate this post to some analysis of the State Rep 76 race.
The race consists of the incumbent State Rep Norma Chavez, Naomi Gonzalez, and Tony San Roman.
The poll indicates that Chavez has 41.6% of the vote, Gonzalez has 30%, and San Roman 8.1%. Undecided voters made up 20.3% of the vote.
For some reason, people are wanting to write Chavez's political obituary already. It may be premature.
Lets take a look at political reality. Chavez had a bad session in terms of public relations. In fact, to say it was bad is an understatement. It was Hall of Fame bad publicity, most of which was her fault.
But lets continue with reality for a moment shall we? The poll shows Chavez with a comfortable lead of more than 11% in a multi-horse race. Thats a pretty sigficant lead in any race, but very significant in a multi-horse race.
Clearly she is not as strong as she was the last time she faced an opponent. But does this poll say more about Chavez's weakness or that of her opponent Naomi Gonzalez? Gonzalez has had the perfect storm to be elected. There is an over all anti-incumbent sentiment going on at the national and state level. Her main opponent had a really bad year in terms of publicity. Gonzalez has received a lot of funding to help her along the way, primarily from the mostly-Republican Texans for Lawsuit Reform lobby. Essentially, everything has gone her way.
Yet she has only been able to capture the support of 30% of the people polled? The fact that there are still 20% of the electorate still in play should be alarming to Gonzalez. It means they aren't thrilled about Chavez, but Gonzalez hasn't convinced them to go to the altar with her yet.
Gonzalez has spent her TLR money on an air war. Her commercials have already been running on Univision, despite the fact that Gonzalez doesn't speak Spanish herself, which is clearly where they need to be running when you have a race in the valley. Gonzalez's commercials have a very sharp tone and deliver a clear message about the incumbent.
Chavez's commercials haven't run yet. Chavez's mailers have been focused on her record so far, but Chavez knows how to turn up the heat. Gonzalez has very shrewdly stayed on ground of her own choosing for the most part, avoiding tough questions or large crowds. It will be interesting to see where those undecided voters go once Chavez starts getting her message out to voters and a shaper critique of Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has shown the ability to throw a punch, but it remains to be seen how she takes a punch. She's put most of her resources in the field already and Chavez has not even begun to put all her troops in the field.
This race will ultimately come down to a ground game. Chavez knows how to win the ground game better than just about anyone in town. The question is whether Gonzalez learned anything from her loss during the city council race against Emma Acosta.
Has Gonzalez learned how to get voters to the polls?
Has she learned how to communicate with voters or is she relying solely on bad press of her opponent?
Has she punched herself out early? Can she take a punch?
But more importantly, how does she go about getting the vast majority of undecided voters to come out and support her?