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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Apathy Is The Hands Down Winner In City Election '15; Turnout CrashesTo Historic Lows; Behind The Plunge, Plus: Results And Analysis 

Pat Davis and Brad Winter can rightfully celebrate their City Council victories and those favoring a tax increase to fund improvements to the BioPark also can pop the champagne corks, but the hands-down winner in City Election '15 was apathy. And how. (Full results here).

Before we get into analysis of the results, let's cover the big story.

Turnout crashed to what appeared to be an historic low of 8.24 percent of those registered and a raw vote total of just 28,800 out of 350,000 registered. In 2011 the city election attracted over 38,000 and we've added some population since then.  This turnout crash comes on the heels of the 2013 mayoral race in which a bit more than 70,000 voted, a number not seen since the 1970's. And that was followed by another plunge in turnout for the '14 gubernatorial election.

You can argue that folks think things are fine and there's no reason to trek to the polls but even a cursory glance around the state's largest city puts that notion to rest. Democratic analyst and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne attempts to explain what has happened to a once thriving city political culture:

Given the state of the city voters should have flocked to the polls, but only 8% showed up. Apathy is the last thing we need. Our economy continues its stay in the tank. The high tech sector is clearing out. Growth industries appear to be predatory lenders, title loans, tattoo and massage parlors and smoke shops. Albuquerque is not thriving as it once did.

But instead of fighting back, people are giving up. They're giving up because they don't believe in the city's political class and don't back them. They know we are led by political posers who do not seem to care about what's happening to Albuquerque. 

So, the average Albuquerque voter does the only thing he or she really can do: refuse to be part of the sham. 92% of Albuquerque's registered voters refused to participate in this election. That percentage isn't an indictment on them. It's an indictment on our civic soul and our civic leadership.

Thanks, Greg. Agree or disagree, Albuquerque needs to look in the mirror.

THE RESULTS

As for the election results, voters who did bother to come out said yes to giving the City Council approval power over the Mayor's picks for police and fire chiefs, a move aimed at avoiding another APD crisis.

But voters didn't like the charter amendment that would have limited the amount of explanation on the ballot when it comes to future amendments. They narrowly rejected the proposal.

That one eighth percent increase in the city gross receipts tax to finance improvements to the BioPark won with 56 percent approval. It raised the question of what would have happened if there was a paid campaign against it? The tax is slated to last 15 years. With the tax projected to raise over $250 million in that time, we better see a BioPark that knocks our socks off.

The $119 million in bond issues all passed overwhelmingly, with the street bonds proving the most popular, garnering 80 percent approval.

In the City Council races, progressive Pat Davis blew the doors off in SE Heights District 6, winning the liberal Dem area in a three way race with 69 percent of the vote. Of course, that's the way it should have been but until it was clear the Governor's political machine was not playing in the race, there was doubt.

The question now is how aggressive Davis will be when it comes to opposing Republican Mayor Berry. The council saw no shift of power from the election, remaining 5 to 4 with the Dems in the majority.

Republican Brad Winter scored 57 percent over Dem challenger and political upstart Israel Chavez, similar to what Winter won re-election with in 2011. But Chavez redeemed himself with a good campaign and at only 24 you assume he will have more chances.

As for Winter, it appeared he wanted to retire this year and now City Hall watchers wonder if he will finish the full four year term he won. If he doesn't, Mayor Berry would name a replacement, Ditto for NE Heights GOP Councilor Trudy Jones who ran unopposed.  Dem North Valley Councilor Ike Benton also ran unopposed.

WHY SO LOW?

Senior Alligator analysis now of the low voter turnout for City Election '15:

Joe, those who say "a robust political competition featuring strong personalities will bring the voters back" have it wrong. It is the absolute apathy over issues, people not caring enough to even vote and the belief that nothing can be done or will be done that are our biggest problems. No one wants to vote or cares to vote because they do not feel their vote matters. Then you have the issue of the staggering amounts of money it takes to run and to have a competitive race. Gov. Martinez outspent Gary King 4 to 1 and Pete Dinelli's public financed mayoral campaign was outspent 3 to 1.

Former Lt. Governor and 2010 Dem gubernatorial contender Diane Denish came with this take on the election:

Joe: The most interesting thing to me about the election has been the lack of leadership by
Mayor Berry even though it follows his pattern of "failure to lead " for the last six years. I am sure I wasn't the only one to be surprised when he took the approach of "I am keeping my vote to myself" in the Bio-Park tax. And what about the bond issues--where was even the slightest glimmer of promotion for these bonds that would create at least a semblance of investment in community infrastructure? No promotion, no bond committee of business folks (what's left of them) to encourage and remind voters that they were needed.

And then there was the swipe he had his spokespeople take at former Mayor
Chavez for the lack of BioPark upkeep and deferred maintenance....really? Six years later, that's the best he can do? No wonder Albuquerque has slipped into to the abyss of economic development and off the radar as a location for vibrant companies with good laying jobs. Leaderless. Aren't leaders supposed to lead?

Thanks to those who joined us for our election coverage last night on Twitter and Facebook.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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