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.
Almost every election includes questions about donors’ intentions and if a winning candidate would give special treatment to one in exchange for the biggest contribution. But sometimes a candidate’s day job can raise questions about how he or she will conduct business as mayor—and if old employers will get preferential treatment. Mayoral candidate Brian Colón, for example, works at the prominent Albuquerque legal firm Robles, Rael & Anaya P.C. The firm has received large city contracts in two different administrations and is staffed with a former city attorney, a former Bernalillo County attorney and a number of former assistant city attorneys. Robles, Rael & Anaya has decades of combined experience in city matters, perhaps the most of any law firm in the city. Colón recently indicated in an email to NM Political Report that he would not cancel city legal contracts with his current employer if he were elected as mayor.
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.