Mexico's next major political milestone, the 2012 presidential election, is still off on the horizon, but for the impatient, Sunday's gubernatorial contest in Mexico state offers a sneak preview of what to expect a year from now.
The campaign to govern the most populous state in the country pits the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) Eruviel Ávila against Luis Felipe Bravo Mena of the National Action Party (PAN) and Alejandro Encinas of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Despite the stature of both Bravo Mena and Encinas -- a former presidential chief of staff and a former mayor of Mexico City, respectively -- Ávila, the mayor of a Mexico City suburb, is poised to sweep to a smashing victory. Most recent opinion polls give him more than 50 percent of voter support, compared to 20-25 percent for Encinas and 10-15 percent for Bravo Mena.
The campaign focused primarily on economic issues, from luring in foreign investment to boosting salaries and improving the state's competitiveness. Less prominent topics of debate were education, gender equality, the environment and public security. But the race has been closely watched less for the candidates' platforms than for its implications for the presidential elections. And with regard to 2012, the biggest winner in Mexico State will not be Ávila, but rather the man he is replacing: Enrique Peña Nieto, the presumptive favorite to succeed Felipe Calderón as president next year.