In a mostly empty building in downtown Albuquerque last week, 80-year-old mayoral candidate Ricardo Chaves said on his first day in office he would pull out all of the city’s parking meters.
Chaves also takes issue with the city charging a “hidden tax” for airport parking. It makes sense that parking is on his mind considering Chavez has been in the parking industry since 1963. Now, 60 of his family members own private parking lots around the U.S., Chaves said.
Chaves added his name to the already long list of mayoral candidates about 15 days before he and other hopefuls must turn in 3,000 petition signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot.
Chaves acknowledged the challenge of getting 3,000 signatures in a short period of time, but said he’s staying confident. He also offered insight into why more than a dozen candidates are actively trying to get on a ballot for a race with no primary election.
“You know, nobody runs thinking they’re going to lose,” Chaves said. “Fifteen of us are running, 15 think we’re going to win and 14 of us going to be wrong.”
Three of those 15 have already collected enough signatures to qualify.
Michelle Garcia Holmes, Tim Keller and Dan Lewis each have already collected at least 3,000 verified signatures.
Deanna Archuleta, Brian Colón, Wayne Johnson and Augustus “Gus” Pedrotty are all within 20 percent from reaching the 3,000 goal, according to the city clerk’s website.
Albuquerque mayoral candidates have less than a week to gather enough signatures to qualify. As of Monday, seven candidates had already gathered 3,000 verified signatures or were about 80 percent away from the goal. A number like that almost guarantees a runoff election, said University of New Mexico political scientist Lonna Atkeson.
“A second round is probably appropriate given there are so many candidates,” Atkeson said.
Albuquerque requires mayoral candidates to clear 50 percent of the vote to win the election. If no candidate reaches a majority in the first round, the top two candidates with the most votes face each other in a runoff election.
A ballot with almost 10 people, a non-partisan race and a lack of a primary election, Atkeson said, can also cloud the respective messages from candidates.
“It’s really difficult, because in a city race you don’t have cues that show what candidates stand for,” Atkeson said.
At least two candidates already dropped out of the race ahead of the signature deadline.
Scott Madison told NM Political Report he stopped collecting signatures and plans to officially withdraw from the race. Elan Colello has also withdrawn.
But some candidates are not showing signs that they are working toward getting 3,000 signatures, at least publicly.
Candidate Susan Wheeler-Deichsel said she doesn’t think the clerk’s numbers so far up to date. The clerk’s website shows Wheeler-Deichsel’s campaign has collected 1,901 verified signatures, but Wheeler-Deichsel said her campaign certified signature count is “much higher than that.”
“I’m feeling very optimistic that I’m going to make it,” Wheeler-Deichsel said.
While this Friday marks the last deadline for mayoral candidates, voters are likely to see more campaign workers in May. This weekend also marks the beginning of the qualifying period for city council candidates, when those candidates start the same process, on a smaller scale, again.