Two divisive Albuquerque city council district races were decided in a runoff election Tuesday night.
Incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton won his race in District 2, which includes the downtown and historic Barelas neighborhoods. Political newcomer Brook Bassan won her race against Ane Romero, who has never held a political office before, but ran for a state House seat in 2016.
Benton told NM Political Report that his win shows that his constituency knows he’s not in it for the fame or fortune of the city council.
“I’ve always just wanted to serve and I think quite a few people recognize that,” Benton said.
Leading up to the election last month where Benton won the most votes, but failed to get more than 50 percent, accusations of dishonesty came from both sides. But it was a mailer from political group who supported Benton that caused the most controversy and division. A measure finance committee, or the city’s version of a political action committee, called Progressive ABQ, sent out mailers accusing Benton’s opponent Zack Quintero of being dishonest about his experience. One mailer had Quintero’s face superimposed on a space suit and another had his face superimposed on a stock photo of a person wearing an apron and commercial kitchen attire. That second mailer though, sparked outrage and was called racist by many on the left, including some elected officials. Benton made it clear that the mailers were not from his official campaign and said he had not seen it until he got one in the mail himself.
“It was uglier than I expected, that’s for sure,” Benton said about the race Tuesday night.
Quintero told NM Political Report he hoped the margin would be closer than the five point difference he lost by, but that he also hopes the race will remind Benton not to take his seat for granted.
“To quote Senator Tom Udall, ‘No one owns this seat in New Mexico,’” Quintero said.
Quintero said he also hopes the issues he campaigned on will be addressed by the long-time councilor.
“I’m still hopeful that Councilor Benton is now going to be bringing a stronger focus to our neighborhoods on issues like a residential burglary unit and on making sure we have behavioral health and mobile healthcare units,” Quintero said.
The District 4 race was as, if not more, divisive as Benton’s race.
Bassan won that race by about seven points.
“I’m thrilled and grateful to have won this election,” Bassan said. “I am extremely proud of all our hard work and am greatly looking forward to working with the council to benefit our district and city.”
Bassan said her first priorities as city councilor will be to lower crime rates and increase public safety.
In the last few days leading up to the run-off election, both the Bassan and Romero campaigns accused each other of playing dirty politics. On the day of the election, Basan’s reportedly caught a man stealing her campaign signs.
“It’s disappointing that my opponent’s campaign is so desperate that they have resorted to this,” a Facebook post from her campaign read.
Days before, Romero said Bassan’s campaign was spreading lies about how long Romero lived in the district and on Tuesday implied Bassan’s campaign staged the sign theft.
Romero said she was grateful for the support she got from her friends and family and is proud of her campaign, despite the loss.
“Since day one, our campaign was rooted in being true to the values I was raised with and a deep love community. Tonight, I’m extremely proud that we ended our campaign on this same note,” Romero said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us as a city and I stand committed to serving our community, especially in addressing the serious gaps in our behavioral health system.”
Benton, Bassan and those who won the elections outright last month will be officially sworn in on January 3. Three days later the council will elect its new president.