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Sheriff Untouchable in First Poll on House Race

Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White (R) blew away the competition — Republicans and Democrats — in the race to replace Rep. Heather Wilson (R) in the 1st district, according to a poll conducted for his campaign.

The survey showed White with an 18-point lead over Democratic primary favorite Martin Heinrich, and with a 55-point lead over his closest GOP primary challenger. The Public Opinion Strategies poll of 400 likely voters was conducted Oct. 8-9, and had a margin of error of 4.9 points.

“The numbers don’t lie,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain said. “Darren White is a political heavyweight with widespread appeal and if these numbers mean anything, it is that any Democrat — currently or considering running — might want to think twice about getting into this race.”

Democrats countered that voters will abandon White once they learn more about his support for Republican Party policies, specifically those championed by President Bush.

“As voters in this Democratic-leaning district learn more about White’s longtime support of George Bush’s disastrous policies, they’ll see he is the person least capable of providing real change for America,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Doug Thornell said.

Among the survey’s key findings:

• White’s name identification registered at 74 percent, with 51 percent of respondents saying their impression of him was favorable, and 15 percent saying it was unfavorable.

• Sixty-one percent of Republican primary voters said they were committed to voting for White, with state Sen. Joe Carraro, another possible GOP candidate coming in a distant second at 6 percent.

• White led former state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D) 51-39 percent, and held a 49-35 percent lead over her among independent voters and 48-40 percent advantage over her among soft Democratic voters. Madrid narrowly lost to Wilson in last year’s 1st district race, and is contemplating running again.

• White led Heinrich, an Albuquerque city councilor, 51-33 percent. That lead was 47-29 percent among independent voters and 45-36 percent among soft Democratic voters.

— David M. Drucker

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