Ricardo Chaves says he won’t accept any outside cash to help in his quest to become mayor of Albuquerque. “I won’t take any campaign money, because I don’t want to be beholden,” Chaves said in a recent interview. “I want to represent all the people not just the special interests.”
So the 81-year-old retired Albuquerque businessman who founded Parking Company of America is relying on a different pile of money to push his mayoral candidacy over the line: his own. To date, Chaves has pumped more than $500,000 into his campaign war chest, mostly through loans. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.
A few things happened on the news front over the weekend that we’re deciding to wrap up the relevant details in quick summaries below:
—It looks like the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will likely get some federal cash after all. In Washington D.C., Congress has agreed on a spending plan to avoid a government shutdown that includes $50 million for ART. That’s $19 million short from what the city asked for, Dennis Domrzalski at ABQ Free Press reports. —As of Friday, nine mayoral candidates qualified for the Albuquerque ballot. One more candidate, Stella Padilla, is roughly 500 valid signatures away from getting on the ballot.
In a mostly empty building in downtown Albuquerque last week, 80-year-old mayoral candidate Ricardo Chaves said on his first day in office he would pull out all of the city’s parking meters. Chaves also takes issue with the city charging a “hidden tax” for airport parking. It makes sense that parking is on his mind considering Chavez has been in the parking industry since 1963. Now, 60 of his family members own private parking lots around the U.S., Chaves said. Chaves added his name to the already long list of mayoral candidates about 15 days before he and other hopefuls must turn in 3,000 petition signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot.
Candidates for the Albuquerque mayoral election filed their campaign finance reports over the weekend. The financial reports shed some light on which privately-financed candidates have raised the most money and from whom they’re getting their contributions. Right now, 16 official candidates are running for the city’s top office, but only four have raised significantly large amounts of money. Brian Colón Former Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman and one-time candidate for lieutenant governor Brian Colón leads the pack in fundraising. Most of his $350,000 haul came in large donations from business owners and executives.
As the Albuquerque mayoral race rolls on, more than half of the 14 candidates currently in the race have decided to raise their own money instead of using public campaign funding
Most of the nine privately-funded candidates won’t say how much money they’ve collected with the first filing deadline a little more than a week away. In addition to raising money to operate, campaigns must collect the signatures of 3,000 registered Albuquerque voters before the end of April to qualify for the ballot. Because he is already an Albuquerque City Councilor, Dan Lewis was the first privately-financed candidate to fully report his campaign finances. Lewis’ campaign finance report filed in January shows he raised more than $108,000 in monetary and in-kind contributions from business owners, state lawmakers and other individuals. Some of the businesses include insurance and real estate agents, construction companies, a local ambulance company and a private motor vehicle registration company.
Albuquerque mayoral candidates seeking public campaign money have less than a week left to qualify. While the filing deadline may lead to a reduced list of candidates, it’s likely candidates who fail to qualify for public financing will stay in the race and instead fund their campaigns through private donations. The Albuquerque city clerk’s website listed seven candidates as seeking public financing as of Monday night, but two candidates on that list told NM Political Report they will forgo public money and fund their campaigns from regular donations. Those who are still trying to qualify for public money will need to submit almost 4,000 contributions of $5 each by Saturday to qualify. The collected contributions will be deposited into a city account and then divided amongst the qualified candidates.
After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-impassioned public comment in Albuquerque Tuesday night, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to reaffirm Bernalillo County’s status as an immigrant-friendly county. The commission voted 4-1 to approve the resolution. This echoes votes by the Albuquerque City and Santa Fe city councils in recent weeks. On the same night, the Village of Corrales rejected a similar resolution. In addition to declaring the county immigrant-friendly, the resolution also asked that “no county monies, resources or personnel shall be used to enforce federal civil immigration laws or to investigate, question, detect or apprehend person on basis of immigration status unless otherwise required by law to do so.”
Commissioner Stephen Michael Quezada sponsored the legislation.
The race for Albuquerque mayor became a major focus for a group of Democrats, one Republican and one independent over the weekend. On Saturday, a group of Democrats spoke about their respective visions of what the next mayor of Albuquerque should focus on, while Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis officially announced his intention to run for the city’s top office on Sunday afternoon. Lewis told supporters gathered at the business incubator Fat Pipe ABQ that he will focus on public safety, economic development and education. More specifically, Lewis said he wants the city to hire roughly 300 police officers under new leadership at the Albuquerque Police Department. As for paying for more police officers to bring the APD street officer total to 1,200 cops, Lewis suggested that the department could cut “duplications” in dispatch and instead focus on “one professional dispatch center.”
Lewis added that APD must “get ahead of the [federal Department of Justice] reforms” rather than being “dragged” into them by the federal government and the courts.
Many Albuquerque-area political figures are rumored to be gearing up for a congressional campaign after New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she plans to leave the seat and run for Governor. There are still no definitive announcements or declared candidates, but the handful of people NM Political Report spoke to this week gave similar answers—that they have been encouraged to run and are giving it serious consideration. Some said they don’t want to run for family reasons, in particular because of the amount of travel that comes with the job. The state’s congressional members often travel back and forth from Washington D.C. and New Mexico. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s family, for example, lived in Albuquerque while he served in the U.S. House before Lujan Grisham.
The Bernalillo County Commission passed a resolution supporting the federal government’s push to create stricter rules on methane leaks and emissions. The proposal passed on a 3-1 vote Tuesday night, with all three Democrats on the commission voting for it and Commissioner Wayne Johnson voting against. Commissioner Lonnie Talbert was not present for the vote. The resolution shows the support of the Bernalillo County Commission for proposed rules from the Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency on methane emissions and leaks from oil and gas drilling. Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins sponsored the resolution and said the proposed federal rules would have a positive impact on health for residents of Bernalillo County, plus help slow down the effects of climate change.