The amount of money being raised and spent so far in the Albuquerque mayor’s race is already an unprecedented $2,646,494. Of that, 68 percent comes from private contributors to candidates. An often heard saying about elections is that candidates spend their time asking anyone they can find for money to fund their campaigns. But a look at the campaigns of the three candidates raising the most in private dollars suggests one constituency is being asked a lot more than others. The real estate and land development sector has given roughly $1 of every $4 raised so far in the Albuquerque mayoral race once you subtract public financing dollars for one candidate and a half-a-million-dollar loan another candidate gave to himself, an NMID analysis shows.
Two polls are out on Albuquerque’s mayoral race. And it looks like there will be a runoff, with State Auditor Tim Keller running in the lead. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, voters will then decide between the top two candidates in a November runoff election. The first round of voting takes place on October 3. A KRQE-TV poll released earlier this week showed 22 percent of registered voters would support Keller in next month’s mayoral election.
In Albuquerque’s city hall earlier this week, dozens of people watched lawyers argue before an elections and ethics board over whether a city council candidate intentionally defrauded citizens of about $38,000. City Council candidate Javier Benavidez qualified for public financing after his campaign collected almost 400 qualified contributions of $5 along with signatures from each contributor. Prominent Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers argued Benavidez purposefully allowed his campaign to forge signatures and falsify contributions and called the campaign’s actions a “very serious issue.”
In his opening statement, he accused Benavidez of “cheating.”
Rogers argued that Benavidez did not correctly collect contributions, and therefore defrauded taxpayers by using public money for his campaign. Rogers is a former Republican National Committeeman and former go-to counsel for Gov. Susana Martinez. Benavidez is the former executive director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, a group that works on racial and economic justice issues.
Out-of-state money in local elections is nothing new. Statewide and legislative races in New Mexico are often funded, to varying degrees, by individuals or Political Action Committees from other parts of the country. With less than three months before the mayoral race, candidates are filing their campaign contribution reports with varying donation amounts from around New Mexico—and in some cases all around the country. Both New Mexico and Albuquerque campaign finance laws allow for out of city and out of state contributions. Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison said members of the public may not like the idea of out-of-state money funding a mayoral campaign, but that ultimately without a clear instance of quid pro quo it’s allowed.
An Albuquerque woman who says she was erroneously disqualified from the upcoming mayoral election is threatening a federal lawsuit, and has also asked city authorities to dismiss a protective order by the city against her. Albuquerque lawyer Blair Dunn filed a motion Wednesday evening to dismiss a protective order the city’s legal team filed on behalf of City Clerk Natalie Howard. The city filed the order after Howard alleged she was harassed by Vanessa Benavidez, the daughter of mayoral hopeful Stella Padilla. If approved by a judge, the city’s proposed order would prevent anyone associated with Padilla’s campaign from interacting with Howard.Now, Dunn said he is prepared to file a federal lawsuit against the city for violating Padilla and Benavidez’s right to free speech. In the latest filing, Dunn wrote that protective orders are only supposed to be used in the discovery process and banning anyone from interacting with a public official is a free speech violation.
The theatrics continued with a lawsuit from Stella Padilla, who wants to run for mayor, alleging Albuquerque’s city clerk failed to properly count petition signatures. The City of Albuquerque filed a protective order Monday against Stella Padilla’s daughter alleging the daughter twice harassed and tried to intimidate City Clerk Natalie Howard. Padilla originally sued Howard in her official capacity as city clerk, alleging her office improperly vetted campaign petition signatures. An affidavit outlines two encounters Howard had with Padilla’s daughter, Vanessa Benavidez, over the past two months. In the affidavit, which lists Benavidez’s last name as Padilla, Howard wrote that Benavidez arrived at the city clerk’s office to serve Howard with a copy of the original complaint.
Former Albuquerque mayoral candidate Stella Padilla Tuesday asked a district judge to allow her to run as an official candidate until her lawsuit against the city clerk over the candidate’s removal from the ballot is finished. Padilla’s lawyer, Blair Dunn, filed a temporary restraining order in district court that, if granted, would allow Padilla to run as a candidate. In his request, Dunn wrote that allowing Padilla to run as an official candidate would not harm the city. But, Blair wrote, Padilla would suffer irreparable harm if she is not allowed to run her campaign until after the court case is completed. “There is no monetary remedy that could be established to replace or compensate [Padilla] for the type of opportunity she will be deprived of seeking to participate in during the pendency of this lawsuit,” Dunn wrote.
The number of Albuquerque mayoral candidates dwindled by one person Friday afternoon. Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta ended her run in a press conference, citing her 86-year-old father’s health. “I have made the difficult decision to step out of the Albuquerque Mayor’s race,” Archuleta wrote in a press release. “My heart is heavy. I love this city and I love the people of Albuquerque.”
Archuleta is caretaking for her father while he recovers from surgery.
The first Albuquerque mayoral forum will take place tonight at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The event sold out, but we will be livestreaming it below for all those who cannot attend. DukesUp.org is sponsoring the event and it will be moderated by Carolyn Carlson of the Weekly Alibi and NM Political Report’s own Laura Paskus. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.
Six candidates confirmed they will attend the forum:
Deanna Archuleta Brian S. Colón Susan Wheeler-Deischel Timothy Keller Dan Lewis Augustus “Gus” Pedrotty
The candidates qualified by answering a question about local enforcement of national immigration policies. The question and their answers are available here.
NM Political Report along with the Weekly Alibi and the community group DukesUp.org will host a mayoral forum on May 23. Tickets for the event are free at the Alibi website. Update: Tickets are sold out. Candidates who accepted the invitation were asked to submit their answers to the following question. What costs and/or benefits do you associate with allowing the Albuquerque Police Department to assist in enforcing federal immigration law in Albuquerque?