Criticism of a massive undercover drug- and gun-crime sting spilled into the Albuquerque mayoral race last week, when candidates were pressed about a 2016 federal law enforcement operation that netted a disproportionate number of black people. It was a serious question, made all the more serious by the man asking: Joe Powdrell, a longtime local activist past president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which sponsored the Sept. 8 forum.This story originally appeared on the New Mexico In Depth website and is reprinted with permission.The operation has drawn community and legal scrutiny for alleged racial profiling and for scooping up many who did not fit the “worst of the worst” profile trumpeted by federal officials after New Mexico In Depth investigations. Picking up on the alleged racial targeting, Powdrell asked the candidates “where your head is at in terms of this biased policing.”
Only three of the seven candidates who attended the forum addressed the sting directly. Dan Lewis, a second-term, Republican city councilor who has spoken out on a number of police-related issues during his seven-plus years on the council, gave the most forceful response.
The latest poll of the Albuquerque mayoral race shows State Auditor Tim Keller leading the field, but still well below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Other recent polls have also reflected Keller’s popularity among voters. But all three polls, the Research and Polling, Inc. poll conducted for the Albuquerque Journal and two conducted earlier, show a high number of undecided voters. Election Day is Oct. 3 and early voting has already opened.
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.
An Albuquerque mayoral candidate attempted to distance himself from a former Albuquerque police chief accused of improper and possibly illegal actions involving a city contract. Last week a Twitter user said former Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Brian Colόn was “So far the best candidate,” but went on to ask “However is it true your firm represents [former Albuquerque Police Chief] Ray Schultz?”
Colόn, who is an attorney, responded on Twitter Monday afternoon, saying “My firm does not represent Schultz. Propaganda.”
My firm does not represent Schultz. Propaganda. DOJ compliance will be priority for our new chief of police in the Colón Administration.
During the 1992 United States presidential election, political commentator James Carville first made a name for himself as a political spin doctor who helped get Bill Clinton elected to the White House. The 1992 documentary “The War Room” shows Carville giving campaign staffers a last minute pep talk the night before the election. “There’s a simple doctrine,” Carville said with a southern drawl. “Outside of a person’s love, the most sacred thing that they can give is their labor.”
Pushing through tears, Carville called himself a “political professional.” “That’s what I do for a living. I’m proud of it.”
There’s no hyperbolic “Ragin’ Cajun” in the Albuquerque mayoral spot light, but analysis of the campaign records shows that several of the eight candidates are relying on the labor and spin of campaign managers and consultants.
Ricardo Chaves says he won’t accept any outside cash to help in his quest to become mayor of Albuquerque. “I won’t take any campaign money, because I don’t want to be beholden,” Chaves said in a recent interview. “I want to represent all the people not just the special interests.”
So the 81-year-old retired Albuquerque businessman who founded Parking Company of America is relying on a different pile of money to push his mayoral candidacy over the line: his own. To date, Chaves has pumped more than $500,000 into his campaign war chest, mostly through loans. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.
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.
Six Albuquerque mayoral candidates faced off Tuesday evening in one of the the first forums of the campaign and answered questions on a wide range of issues like community policing, immigration and economic development. While there were many nuanced differences in the candidates’ answers, they also agreed on a number of issues. During a “lightning round” of yes or no questions in front of an audience of 250 people, all candidates agreed that the Albuquerque Police Department wasn’t doing enough to meet the Department of Justice consent decree and that the department’s chief, Gorden Eden, should be replaced. Each candidate also said they would support relocating Syrian refugees to Albuquerque. The forum was sponsored by the community group Dukes Up Albuquerque and the two moderators were from the Weekly Alibi and NM Political Report, which helped organize the event.
A few things happened on the news front over the weekend that we’re deciding to wrap up the relevant details in quick summaries below:
—It looks like the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will likely get some federal cash after all. In Washington D.C., Congress has agreed on a spending plan to avoid a government shutdown that includes $50 million for ART. That’s $19 million short from what the city asked for, Dennis Domrzalski at ABQ Free Press reports. —As of Friday, nine mayoral candidates qualified for the Albuquerque ballot. One more candidate, Stella Padilla, is roughly 500 valid signatures away from getting on the ballot.