ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry appears to be on his way to re-election.
Berry had 73 percent of the vote among early and absentee ballots Tuesday night to open a huge lead over two Democratic challengers in his bid for a second term.
Former Deputy City Attorney Pete Dinelli had 24 percent of the vote and retired police sergeant Paul Heh had 2 percent.
Early and absentee votes represent about 40 percent of the total number of votes estimated to have been cast in this year’s election.
Berry is the city’s first Republican mayor in two decades and needs at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
Albuquerque hasn’t had a mayoral runoff since 1993.
New Mexico’s largest city voted strongly Democratic in last year’s presidential and U.S. Senate.
A September poll showed Berry with a comfortable lead in the city of 555,000.
But since then, Dinelli has been tapping strong Democratic ties as he has stepped up his attacks on the mayor over on his handling of Albuquerque’s scandal-plagued police department and lackluster economic recovery.
The Albuquerque Police Department is under federal investigation for a series of high-profile cases of abuse and more than two dozen officer-involved shootings since 2010.
City Clerk Amy Bailey told the Albuquerque Journal that she was hoping for a record turnout.
“We more than doubled the number of early voters from the 2009 election this year,” she said.
Albuquerque voters also were deciding six city council seats.