A trial involving the University of New Mexico and its medical facility began Monday with jury selection. But after a decision from a district judge and a high ranking court official, no one from the public, including media, was allowed to witness the process of how or why each side selected or rejected jurors. The case goes back to 2011 when Dr. Cynthia Herald filed a lawsuit against UNM Hospital and some of its administrators for firing Herald after she said a male doctor raped her. Herald and the male doctor were both residents at UNM at the time, but Herald was dismissed from the program shortly after she reported the rape to her superiors. UNMH has maintained from the beginning they kicked Herald out of the residency program for subsequent drug use while on the job as an anesthesiologist.
It’s hard to slog through an election without hearing about endorsements. Friends, former opponents and local celebrities pepper social media with their support of one of the two candidates in the Albuquerque mayoral runoff. Lauren Poole is one local celebrity who has attached her name to mayoral candidate and State Auditor Tim Keller’s campaign. Poole is most often recognized for her honestly ignorant but affable character Lynette. Last week, she lent her character’s voice to a campaign video for Keller.
An ethics complaint against Albuquerque mayoral candidate Tim Keller is headed back to a city ethics board after initial disagreement over the correct jurisdiction. Filed by former mayoral candidate and current Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, the complaint alleges illegal coordination between Keller’s campaign and an independent fundraising group. Chief Hearing Officer Stanley Harada ruled that the issue should go to the city’s Board of Ethics, writing that under the city charter, he does not have jurisdiction in the matter. Johnson’s attorney, former Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers, filed the complaint and insisted it should go to a city hearing officer and not the city’s Board of Ethics. From the start, Keller’s lawyer Molly Schmidt-Nowara said a hearing officer was not the correct jurisdiction.
Campaign ads often use hyperbole to sway voters, but in recent weeks one Albuquerque mayoral candidate appears to have included misleading statements in his campaign material. Albuquerque City Councilor and mayoral candidate Dan Lewis has not held back on dark, ominous TV ads that say his opponent State Auditor Tim Keller will be soft on criminals. Lewis has cited an Albuquerque Journal editorial endorsing him for mayor in campaign materials, but he also claimed the paper criticized one of Keller’s votes while the Democrat was a State Senator. What Lewis cites is actually an opinion article written by a prominent Keller critic who helped fund other anti-Keller ads. Earlier this month, Lewis’ campaign announced the release of a TV ad attacking Keller for two of his votes in the state senate.
The hits keep coming towards one Albuquerque mayoral candidate—and at least two formal complaints against him are coming from a former candidate and his lawyer. Since the mayoral election ended earlier this month, Dan Lewis has gone after Tim Keller’s voting record in the New Mexico State Senate through T.V. ads and a website, but his campaign and supporters are also under fire for alleged unethical campaign practices. Bernalillo County Commissioner and former mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson filed two ethics complaints against Keller. Johnson’s lawyer in both cases is former Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers. One ethics complaint against Keller is already pending with the Albuquerque Board of Ethics concerning in-kind contributions and now, another is headed for a city hearing officer’s jurisdiction.
A new report may shed some light on how New Mexico voters feel about campaign public financing and groups who raise money independently of candidates. It comes as ethics complaints related to Albuquerque’s election stack up and congressional and gubernatorial candidates fill their campaign accounts. The 2017 Campaign Finance Report released by the University of New Mexico shows most registered voters favor public financing and making public financing available to more candidates. The report also shows many New Mexicans disagree that independent expenditure groups should be able to raise and spend money unregulated as a form a free speech. The report from the political science department found 70 percent of voters would like public financing to be available for more elected offices.
A New Mexico state district judge Wednesday ruled in favor of a Bernalillo County commissioner, whose 2016 opponent challenged his candidacy. Albuquerque District Judge Clay Campbell ruled County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada was indeed a valid candidate even though he did not personally sign his declaration of candidacy statement last year. “Mr. Quezada appears to have properly adopted as his signature his name as it appears above the word ‘Declarant’ on his Declaration of Candidacy,” Campbell wrote in his ruling. Last year, after Quezada won the general election, his opponent Patricia Paiz challenged the win by pointing out Quezada’s wife filled out his declaration. Paiz and her attorneys argued that this eliminated Quezada as a valid candidate.
The third place candidate in this month’s mayoral election officially announced Wednesday his support of State Auditor Tim Keller in next month’s runoff election. Albuquerque attorney Brian Colón, who received 16 percent of the votes last month announced his endorsement of Keller. While the race is non-partisan, both are Democrats. Meanwhile, a candidate that received under five percent of the vote endorsed Keller’s opponent, Dan Lewis. Michelle Garcia Holmes, a former Albuquerque Police Department detective, endorsed Lewis.
Albuquerque’s mayoral runoff election is a month away and so far the two campaigns have stayed relatively quiet. But an upcoming ethics hearing and the city’s public finance rules could make the runoff election more complicated or at least open the door for more attack ads, particularly against State Auditor Tim Keller. Originally scheduled for Oct. 12, an ethics hearing for a complaint against Keller was moved to only a few days before the Nov. 14 runoff election—and well after early voting starts.
New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller led all mayoral candidates with 39.35 percent of the votes Tuesday night in the Albuquerque race for mayor, but will still face Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis in a runoff election next month. Lewis beat out Albuquerque attorney Brian Colón for second place by about 6.5 percentage points according to unofficial results with all 53 voting centers reporting. Keller would have needed to get 50 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff election. Keller spoke to a couple hundred supporters outside his campaign headquarters with about half of the votes counted, but enough to show him with a clear lead. Keller thanked his family, campaign staff and the handful or organizations that endorsed him.