State Auditor Tim Keller landed strong in his bid to be Albuquerque’s next mayor, sweeping up just under 62 percent of the vote last night in an election with large turnout for Albuquerque — 29 percent. Keller ran a largely positive campaign, emphasizing along the way grassroots support for his campaign. The only candidate in the race who went for public financing, he raised 6,000 small donations of $5 early in the year to qualify for public funding. He noted in his victory speech the positive nature of his campaign, saying he had “rejected division.”
His positive campaign overcame negative ads charging he was soft on sex offenders and numerous ethics complaints filed by his political opponents. As a publicly financed candidate he was in the middle of the pack financially, in what was the most expensive mayoral race in Albuquerque, ever.
Heading into the final weekend before Albuquerque’s municipal election on Tuesday, some independent political groups have spent most of the total money they’ve collected while others haven’t spent any, according to a review of financial reports filed today. It’s possible that an influx of money will enter the race in the final hours before the election, with associated attack ads, robocalls, and mailers. But here’s a rundown of the money to date reported by the 2017 measure finance committees — how much they’ve raised and how much they still have on hand to date. Albuquerque Coalition for a Healthy Economy and Realtors Association of New Mexico Education Public on Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, has raised $218,247, with $51,016 remaining in its account heading into the weekend. This group was created to oppose the sick leave ordinance.
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. 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. The report also reflected that Colón had accepted contributions from the owners of those companies, as either individuals or through their other companies.
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. Both Energize Albuquerque and Make Albuquerque Safe are helmed by Denise Romero, Chairperson, and Donna Taylor, Treasurer. NM In Depth reached out to Donna Taylor, whose email is listed on the committee report, and Garrett, to ask them why they support Sanchez.
It doesn’t get much darker in the annals of Albuquerque negative political campaigning. More than a week ago, a mysterious group began running an ad on the city’s television stations. The first image is of State Auditor and Albuquerque mayoral candidate Tim Keller, quickly followed by a dark figure wearing a hoodie. “Sex offender” in bold red letters flashes on the screen before cutting to a backlit child riding a bike. Billboards later sprung up in the city.
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. 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.
With Albuquerque’s city election less than a month away, a number of independent groups have registered with the city as political committees, ramping up to make their views known. As of last Friday when the latest campaign finance reports were filed, such committees have raised a combined total of $824,441. That’s 20 percent of all the money raised so far this election cycle, that will see a new mayor elected, as well as numerous new city councilors. There is a controversial ballot measure on the ballot as well. The money will be used to bombard Albuquerque voters–and all other listeners to the big television and radio stations–with political ads for and against candidates and issues.
The amount of money being raised and spent so far in the Albuquerque mayor’s race is already an unprecedented $2,646,494. Of that, 68 percent comes from private contributors to candidates. An often heard saying about elections is that candidates spend their time asking anyone they can find for money to fund their campaigns. But a look at the campaigns of the three candidates raising the most in private dollars suggests one constituency is being asked a lot more than others. The real estate and land development sector has given roughly $1 of every $4 raised so far in the Albuquerque mayoral race once you subtract public financing dollars for one candidate and a half-a-million-dollar loan another candidate gave to himself, an NMID analysis shows.
That system is currently teetering, at least when it comes to citywide races, largely due to the small amount of funds it provides compared to what competitors are able to raise, or in the case of one candidate, self-finance.
Albuquerque’s mayoral contest is officially a $2 million race, setting the stage for the most expensive mayor’s race ever in the city. Campaign finance reports filed today show mayoral candidates have raised or otherwise accumulated $2,103,107 since the beginning of the year. That figure includes $380,791 for Tim Keller’s publicly financed campaign. $500,000 in loans to himself by Ricardo Chaves, plus $8,648 he’s contributed to his own campaign. Dan Lewis has raised $355,254, which includes $90,477.56 he started the year with.
The Albuquerque City Clerk is asking six mayoral and two city council candidates to fix campaign filing mistakes ranging from anonymous contributions to missing employers and occupations. The candidates have 10 days to remedy the errors or face fines. Susan Wheeler-Deischel received the most reprimands. As New Mexico In Depth previously pointed out, her campaign listed “NA” for employers in 17 instances. Another entry was blank.