Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Campaign Heat: Keller's Turn To Unload; Dem Mayor Hopeful Matches Lewis Attack For Attack; Plus: Money Race For Two Open Congress Seats; Where They Stand 

After Dan Lewis threw the kitchen sink at him in the first major mayoral debate Sunday, Tim Keller has now filled a lunch bucket to the brim with accusations against Lewis. And, suddenly, the race is fully joined.

Lewis unloaded both barrels at the Temple Albert debate, slamming Democrat Keller on a myriad of issues, most especially on what Lewis says is Keller's "hug a thug" crime platform.

Some Keller confidants were concerned that Keller did not fire directly at Lewis at that first confrontation but they can put their worry beads away. Apparently Keller got the message that he is now engaged in a knock-down, drag-out brawl with Lewis as well as the state GOP which joined the fray Monday, going after Keller's campaign consultants.

Here's how it's all coming down. . .

Keller came with something akin to a greatest hits list on City Councilor Lewis, even mentioning the name of the unpopular incumbent mayor:

Albuquerque voters made their voice heard at the ballot box by voting for a new direction for our city and a fresh start after years of mismanagement and finger-pointing from Dan Lewis and RJ Berry,” said Keller. 

--Dan Lewis cut frontline APD officers from the budget.
--Dan Lewis voted against retaining APD officers while we faced a shortage.
--Dan Lewis’ “good friend” Pastor Steve Smothermon recently made his endorsement of the extreme candidate claiming Lewis would “oppose the gay agenda.”

You get the idea. Look for a more aggressive Keller in the TV debates and forums. Lewis has shown himself to be adept at attack politics and now it's Keller's turn to fight him off and protect his big polling lead.


The ABQ mayoral race is technically nonpartisan. No political parties are listed next to the names of the candidates, but that fig leaf was shredded years ago. And Monday the state GOP put itself in the middle of the campaign, trying to put some dust in Keller's eyes with this:

(The NM GOP) is calling upon all relevant government agencies to review Tim Keller’s practice of funneling potentially illegal campaign contributions through his political consultant in order to collect more cash in his run for mayor. As a publicly financed candidate, Keller is directly prohibited from raising additional funds, but he was caught running a scam in which donors would make cash donations to his political consultant, whose services were deemed “in-kind” by the Keller campaign. This scheme allowed Keller to pay campaign salaries and other campaign expenditures with cash collected outside his agreement to fund his campaign with public funds.

Keller's campaign denies there was any wrongdoing when his consultants--Rio Strategies--accepted cash as in-kind donations. A complaint is pending before the city ethics board. Whether there will be a decision before the Nov. 14 election is unknown.


Tim Keller had Sen. Heinrich weigh in with an endorsement of him in the mayoral run-off. Now Republican Dan Lewis comes with his own congressional endorsement--that of Rep. Steve Pearce, the odds-on favorite to be the GOP Guv nominee next year:

Albuquerque needs a leader who will both make the city safe and move the city forward. . . Dan is a leader on demanding public safety and accountability. He knows how to create jobs and put people to work and he values education as the foundation for success. He will make sure police are patrolling the streets and locking away the criminals that threaten families and communities. I support Dan Lewis for mayor and I look forward to working with him. . . 

Speaking of Pearce, he is not the odds-on favorite to become the next governor, but his relentless drive and military like precision in campaigning has the Democrats talking. They are not taking him lightly.


While Pearce is a needed endorsement for Lewis, the Alligators immediately asked where is the Lewis endorsement from BernCo Commissioner Wayne Johnson who launched attack TV ads against Lewis during the Oct. 3 election, but finished in fourth place in the eight person field.

Johnson received 9,000 mostly Republican votes that Lewis must have if he is to eke out a win against Keller. Johnson partisans signaled in September that Johnson would not be endorsing Lewis. So far that prediction is holding up, but there's a long way to go.

Finally on the mayoral front, reader Rick Lass wants to know why ABQ is even having a mayoral run-off:

Hi Joe, This reader wants to know why Albuquerque has not adopted Ranked Choice Voting for its elections. Instead, the city is going to spend what, $1million, on a low turnout runoff. Why not just ask voters to indicate their second choices on election day, and save everybody the expense and trouble of having to come back and do it all again in November?

A point for discussion, Rick, as turnout for the run-off could be dramatically lower than the October 3 election.


Former US Attorney Damon Martinez flexed some money muscle out of the gate as he entered the competition for the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Martinez raised $161,000 since announcing his bid in July and loaned himself another $50,000. He reports to the FEC that he had $189,000 cash on Sept. 30, the end of the reporting period.

With that, Martinez has elbowed himself into the top tier of this crowded eight person battle (eight if you count retired journalist Tom Flores who has not raised anything yet).

That means we now have a "Big Three" list for the nomination: Martinez, retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and former NM Dem Party Chair Deb Haaland--and not necessarily in any order.

ABQ City Councilor Pat Davis needs something to happen. He has raised $139,000 and has $52,000 in cash, compared to $339,000 raised by Sedillo Lopez and $262,000 for Haaland who along with Davis have been raising money most of the year.

Sedillo Lopez reports $240,000 in cash on hand; Damon Martinez $189,000 and Haaland $162,000.

Attorney Damian Lara is pushing hard to break through, loaning himself $125,000 and raising $63,000. He has $138,000 in cash so he will be making some noise.


While former US Attorney Martinez has to be happy with his cash haul, his foes have surfaced a somewhat bizarre public TV interview he recently conducted.

The 40 minute sit down was prompted by allegations of racial profiling made over a four-month federal government drug and firearms sting operation that occurred under Martinez's watch in the ABQ SE Heights. It resulted in the arrest of many low-level offenders who were disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

Martinez answered just about all the questions by saying he could not answer the questions because of ethics and other regulations. So why give the interview in the first place? That's something his foes are asking and that we could hear (and maybe see) more of now that he has vaulted into the inner circle of congressional contenders.


The ABQ congressional district is nearly deep blue and winning the Dem nomination next June will be tantamount yo winning the seat in November. The evidence? GOP hopeful and former State Rep. Janice Anrold-Jones reports raising only $12,000 in the latest quarter.

The only good news for Janice is that she is now the sole candidate for the GOP nod. Attorney Michel Hendricks has quit the race but announced he will seek the GOP nomination for attorney general next year. Attorney General Balderas, a Dem, is seeking a second, four year term.


Former Hobbs Mayor and ex-state GOP Chairman Monty Newman is on top in the money race to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Steve Pearce who is running for Governor. And Newman made a splash getting there.

He raised over $315,000 and has nearly all of it--$311,000--sitting in cash. Not surprisingly, much of Newman's loot came from the oil and gas industry so dominant in SE NM and also from Newman's fellow realtors.

Alamogordo GOP State Rep. Yvette Herrell is the other name candidate in this four way contest. She reported raising $129,000 and had $123,00 in cash as of Sept. 30.

The nomination will very likely go to one of those two. Newman's early financial dominance puts Herrell on notice. However, Herrell's support among party regulars like former NM House Speaker Don Tripp who gave to Harrell, could be a big factor at next March's preprimary convention. That gives Newman reason to pause.

This one is all red all the time. No Dems need apply, although a number are running. Newman or Herrell is very likely your next southern congressional representative.

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