Santolina developers spent another $36K opposing Pedroza in BernCo race

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The developer of the controversial Santolina development in western Bernalillo County poured nearly $36,500 in June in successful efforts to defeat vocal opponent Adrian Pedroza in the District 2 commission race.

New Mexicans for New Mexico, a political action committee, raised nearly $64,500 from April through the end of June.

More than half of that came in the days leading up to the June 7 primary from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, the Arizona-based developer of Santolina, according to a final report filed Thursday.

Breaking Bad actor and Albuquerque Public Schools board member Steven Michael Quezada won the three-way Democratic primary on June 7.

New Mexicans for New Mexico bought billboards, hired canvassers, sent mailers and used robocalls to support Quezada and Robert Chavez as well as criticize Adrian Pedroza, who opposes the development.

“I was pretty shocked that they had put that much more money into this PAC,” Pedroza said Friday. “We know that the PAC money was used to raise an attack against me because I was the most vocal, outspoken candidate against the Santolina development.”

Pedroza lost to Quezada by 338 votes.

“It (the money) was not used to inform voters of why their development was going to be good for the community,” he added. “It was used to attack me.”

The political action committee is now shuttered, treasurer Donna Madrid-Taylor told New Mexico In Depth.

“We’ve accomplished what we were setting out to do,” she said. “We did not support just one candidate. We’re just happy with the results that we got.”

Western Albuquerque Land Holdings donated nearly $23,000 to the political action committee on June 1, spent $10,000 for mailings from the group on June 2 and spent more than $3,600 on June 28 for calls made by an Arizona company in connection with the campaign.

Jeffrey Garrett, an executive affiliated with the project, donated $5,000 to the PAC. Other lawyers and business people working on Santolina also donated to the group.

Pedroza spent nearly $79,000 on the race, and slammed the Santolina developers the weekend before the primary for their involvement.

Quezada raised more than $61,000 and spent more than $58,000, while Chavez raised and spent about $35,500, including in-kind contributions.

The District 2 seat is now held by Democrat Art De La Cruz, who is term-limited. He was one of three votes approving the Santolina master plan last year.

Although the master plan has been approved, the five-member Bernalillo County Commission will still need to approve zoning, transportation plans and potentially tax increment development districts, which would allow the developers to retain some future tax revenue to repay development costs.

Quezada did not return a call for comment but he told the Albuquerque Journal he isn’t necessarily a fan of Santolina, but would remain open-minded about the nearly 14,000-acre project in future decisions. He will face Republican Patricia Paiz in the general election.

Pedroza said he hopes Quezada “really looks at the financial implications and environmental implications and how we’re prioritizing our resources” when considering Santolina.

And he said he hopes the PACs actions will encourage the county to regulate donations from those doing business with the county to political action committees. The county already limits donations to candidates from those doing business with the county.

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