“It’s going to be a nail-biter,” Garrett VeneKlasen said, early in the night as he and fellow Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard were neck-and-neck in the race for New Mexico State Land Commissioner. And indeed it was, as the two traded the lead throughout the night, with Garcia Richard, a state representative, pulling ahead as the final results from Bernalillo County came in late Tuesday night, giving her a two percentage point lead over VeneKlasen. Despite a last-minute ad campaign, state Sen. George Muñoz finished almost 15 percentage points behind the two front-runners. “I feel very gratified the voters responded to my cause,” Garcia Richard said. “I was outspent, I didn’t have the institutional support my opponents had and I didn’t have the endorsements they had.”
In November’s general election, she will face Republican Pat Lyons, who previously held the office for two terms, from 2003 until 2010. A rancher, Lyons currently represents District 2 on the Public Regulation Commission.
Two of the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor have over $1.5 million cash on hand for the final stretch before the primary election on June 5. Early voting has already started. State Sen. Joseph Cervantes has now loaned his own campaign over $2 million and raised only about $15,000 from others. He now has $1.65 million cash on hand. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised over $410,000 and spent nearly $640,000 between April 3 and May 7.
Delegates for the Democratic Party of New Mexico chose their preferred candidates for statewide and federal races Saturday afternoon at the state pre-primary convention. But before candidates finished their stump speeches, a brief protest and an alliance between two gubernatorial candidates caused some excitement. The Democratic convention showed higher numbers of both the number of candidates and convention attendees than the recent Republican and Libertarian state parties. Six state and federal candidates emerged from contested races as party favorites for the Democratic primary election in June. While he denied rumors that he was dropping out, gubernatorial candidate Peter DeBenedittis used his speech to encourage delegates to cast votes for another candidate in the race, Jeff Apodaca.
The recent Albuquerque and Las Cruces municipal elections, along with other races nationwide, could signal a warning for Republicans in the 2018 elections. The pendulum looks to be swinging from Republican gains during the Barack Obama years to Democratic gains in response to Donald Trump, according to Brian Sanderoff, the president of the Albuquerque-based Research & Polling, Inc.
“I think the political mood right now benefits Democrats,” he said. “And I think part of that is due to the fact that a Republican is in the White House, has lower approval ratings and all the dynamics that go with that.”
In New Mexico, 2018 will be an important election year with the governor’s race, a U.S. Senate seat, three U.S. congressional districts and a number of other statewide positions up for grabs. Locally, Tim Keller’s comprehensive victory in Albuquerque for mayor, the flipping of a previously Republican-held Albuquerque city council seat and the progressive sweep of the Las Cruces city council show how national shifts are reflected in New Mexico politics. “That’s American politics, du jour, that it goes back and forth,” University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson said.
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.
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.
Dozens of voting locations around Albuquerque opened this morning for the municipal election, which will determine who the top two contenders for mayor are in addition to the outcome of four city council races and whether businesses will have to provide paid sick leave to employees. The race for mayor has received the most attention, though it’s very unlikely Albuquerque residents will know who their next mayor will be by tonight. Don’t know where to vote? Look it up here. The city election code requires a runoff election if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of votes.
In the race for Albuquerque mayor, Tim Keller is in the lead, while Dan Lewis is now in second, according to a new poll for Albuquerque Journal by Research and Polling, Inc.
The poll shows 29 percent of likely voters support Keller, currently the State Auditor, while Lewis, an Albuquerque city councilor, is in second with 18 percent. Former Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Brian Colón is in third place with 14 percent while Bernalillo County Commission Wayne Johnson has the support of ten percent of those polled. No other candidate has more than five percent support. If no candidate receives the support of 50 percent of voters after votes are tallied Tuesday, the top two vote-getters will head to a runoff election in November. Eighteen percent described themselves as undecided, a sizable number for days ahead of the election.
Albuquerque bans contributions to candidates for elective office from businesses or individuals who make money from city contracts, but that doesn’t prevent owners of those companies from giving to candidates in a different way. The practice is on stark display in a recent campaign report filed by mayoral candidate Brian Colón, who returned contributions from several companies with city contracts on September 12 and then accepted contributions from the owners of those companies about a week later. This story originally appeared on the New Mexico In Depth website and is reprinted with permission. Owners are allowed to give as individuals or through other companies they own. In his report filed September 22, Colón showed he had returned contributions from contractors identified previously to him by KOB Channel 4, reported by KOB on September 19.
In less than a week, Albuquerque voters will cast ballots for the next mayor and in some districts, city councilors. Most candidates have straightforward ideas on how to improve the city, but one candidate is keeping true to his campaign modus operandi by proposing an idea that other candidates won’t even consider. Gus Pedrotty, the youngest candidate for mayor this year, recently added city-level marijuana legalization to his platform. While the idea of legalization on a local level may be enticing for some voters, other candidates and at least one cannabis producer said the idea is too complicated to work. Earlier this month, Pedrotty released a campaign video promoting his ideas for improving the city’s clean energy industry and how to help pay for it.