September 6, 2016

City Council had the chance to address early candidacy problems

ABQ City Council

Albuquerque City Council

An issue with the Albuquerque city charter that allowed a mayoral candidate to run for office without making it official could have been addressed months ago.

ABQ City Council

Albuquerque City Council

Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta announced earlier this year she would run for mayor in 2017, but there was no way to file as an official candidate. Her campaign started fundraising about a year before the city filing process starts.

During a city council meeting earlier this year, on May 2, Councilor Don Harris called to withdraw two bills he previously sponsored. One of the proposals included new language in the city charter that would update the definition of a candidate. Currently, the city charter only defines a candidate as someone who files with the city clerk’s office.

Among other campaign disclosure measures, Harris’ bill would have required anyone who publicly announced their candidacy, received more than $250 in contributions for the campaign or spent more than $250 on campaign activities to officially file as a candidate with the city clerk’s office. At the time, the proposal was set to be included on ballots during the November general election. Harris was concerned about the process of getting the legislation to voters, specifically with ballot space. Harris called for the disclosure proposal as well as a measure to increase public financing for mayoral elections.

Calling the disclosure and public financing bills “too complex” Harris told other councilors, “We could not get this on the county commission ballot.”

All City Councilors except Isaac Benton voted to approve the removal of Harris’ two proposals. Benton cited the work of a city charter task force as a major reason for keeping the two measures in play.

“I feel like for all the work that was done by the charter review task force, these should be kept alive for that reason alone,” Benton said.

The task force was convened to suggest changes to the city charter, including measures that would change the city election code.

The task force submitted almost 80 pages of suggestions, but ultimately the council could not agree to approve all of the measures as one proposal. Instead, the council decided to address changes individually.

Harris argued that the disclosure measure could be redrafted and decided on by the council instead of voters. The council never voted on a similar measure.

The next day, Deanna Archuleta publicly announced her intention to run for mayor.

Like the other measure, Harris withdrew the proposal to increase public financing for mayoral candidates because of its complexity. Benton, as he did with his disclosure measure, raised concerns that the task force’s work was in vain. Harris encouraged Benton to introduce the measure himself.

“Councilor Benton can always introduce the bill as his own tomorrow,” Harris said.

Benton never sponsored the bill, but Harris and fellow Councilor Pat Davis* sponsored a measure to increase mayoral campaign public financing. Now the council and the Bernalillo County Commission are struggling to agree on specifics of getting it on the ballot.

The public financing measure along with a sick leave initiative never made to the the commission’s agenda for discussion. The county commission scheduled a special meeting for the sole purpose of voting on the sick leave and public finance initiatives. Still, Deanna Archuleta and anyone else that decides to start early fundraising for the mayoral race next November do not have a place to file until next spring.

* Pat Davis is the head of ProgressNow New Mexico, which helps find funding for NM Political Report. Neither Davis nor anyone at ProgressNow have a say in the editorial process on any story at NM Political Report, including this story.