On New Mexico’s primary election day, in almost triple-digit heat, former state Senator Dede Feldman stood outside an Albuquerque middle school with a signature-filled clipboard in hand. It’s not uncommon to see people gathering signatures outside of polling locations for various political efforts. But Feldman wasn’t there to get anyone elected. The former four-term lawmaker, shaded by a wide brimmed hat, was collecting signatures to get a public campaign finance initiative on the ballot in November for Albuquerque voters. The initiative that Feldman and others hope to get on the ballot would increase money to at least some municipal candidates in Albuquerque who take part in the city’s public financing system.
A self-proclaimed government watchdog could have his private investigator’s license revoked, depending on what a governing board could decide next month. Another private investigator filed an official complaint with the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) last month against Carlos McMahon that alleged he obtained his private investigator license fraudulently and abused his position as an investigator. McMahon has been in and out of the news since he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, his former place of employment, in 2010. At that time his name was Carlos Villanueva. He changed his last name to McMahon this June.
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.
A new Santolina backed political committee popped up an electronic billboard and sent out mailers on Albuquerque’s west side late last week to support the re-election bid of City Councilor Ken Sanchez. Energize Albuquerque filed a campaign report showing a $20,000 contribution from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, the company seeking to create a massive master planned community in far west Bernalillo County that would be called Santolina. Over the past two weeks, another committee backed in part by Santolina developer Jeff Garrett, called Make Albuquerque Safe, blanketed the city with negative ads against mayoral candidate Tim Keller. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Both Energize Albuquerque and Make Albuquerque Safe are helmed by Denise Romero, Chairperson, and Donna Taylor, Treasurer.
The City of Albuquerque Board of Ethics Monday afternoon voted to impose a $1,900 fine on an Albuquerque City Council Candidate for not following the city’s election code. The hearing was the latest related to a complaint by former mayoral candidate Stella Padilla and private investigator Carlos McMahon against city council candidate Javier Benavidez. Padilla and McMahon alleged that Benavidez’s campaign fraudulently obtained about $38,000 of public campaign funds by using some of their own money instead of collecting $5 from each petition signer. Padilla and McMahon’s lawyer, prominent Republican Pat Rogers, wrote in his closing argument that Benavidez should return the taxpayer-funded money his campaign received, be fined at least $21,000 and be removed from the City Council if he wins the race. Rogers also said the issue should be referred to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution.
In Albuquerque’s city hall earlier this week, dozens of people watched lawyers argue before an elections and ethics board over whether a city council candidate intentionally defrauded citizens of about $38,000. City Council candidate Javier Benavidez qualified for public financing after his campaign collected almost 400 qualified contributions of $5 along with signatures from each contributor. Prominent Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers argued Benavidez purposefully allowed his campaign to forge signatures and falsify contributions and called the campaign’s actions a “very serious issue.”
In his opening statement, he accused Benavidez of “cheating.”
Rogers argued that Benavidez did not correctly collect contributions, and therefore defrauded taxpayers by using public money for his campaign. Rogers is a former Republican National Committeeman and former go-to counsel for Gov. Susana Martinez. Benavidez is the former executive director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, a group that works on racial and economic justice issues.
Potential candidates for Albuquerque City Council who aim to run using public funds are up against their first deadline later today. To qualify for the public financing, the city requires candidates to collect a certain number of $5 contributions, depending on how many people are registered to vote in the district. So far, about 60 percent of city council candidates are seeking public financing. Only one mayoral candidate qualified for public financing. Coming into the final day to collect the qualifying donations, about half of the city council hopefuls attempting to qualify for public financing are on track.
Protests outside the Donald Trump rally Sunday evening in Albuquerque were less chaotic than a previous rally with the Republican presidential nominee. There were about 50 protesters at the protest’s peak and no apparent property damage or arrests were made. Before the rally started, a handful of protesters gathered on a nearby corner holding signs that read “Trump Owns the FBI the system IS Rigged” and “Trump vs All of Us.”
The signs were positioned so Trump supporters could see them as they walked to the rally. One man stopped at the corner and rested against a nearby stop sign as a sign holder asked if he was alright. “I’m fine, but our country is going to shit,” the man replied.
The Working Families Party tapped a former State Senator and Albuquerque City Councilor to head the organization in New Mexico. The progressive group made the announcement just before Labor Day that Eric Griego is the group’s new state director. “As an elected official and community leader, Eric had one of the strongest records in New Mexico of standing by working families even when others in both parties wavered,” SouthWest Organizing Project Executive Director Javier Benavidez said. Benavidez is also on the board of the state’s Working Families Party. The Working Families Party is active in nine other states and the District of Columbia.
One week after police shootings and death of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota rocked the country and led to nationwide protests, an Albuquerque restaurant wrote “Black Olives Matter” on its outdoor sign to promote its weekly special. The message is a not-so-subtle reference to the Black Lives Matter movement that began in 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the controversial killing of Trayvon Martin. The loosely-organized movement has focused on killings of African-Americans, including shootings by police. Paisano’s, an Italian eatery located in a northeast neighborhood on the Eubank Boulevard and Indian School Road intersection, also wrote “try our tapenade” below “Black Olives Matter” and posted the message on its Facebook page Wednesday. Tapenade is a spread made primarily from olives.