Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Little Election That Mattered; Lowest Turnout Ever, But Some Changes; Harris Beats Recall; Garduño Sweeps; Winter Wins; O'Malley Triumphs 

You didn't need Sherlock Holmes to detect the major theme of Albuquerque Election '07. Mostly everything ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez wanted was defeated and most everything he didn't want was approved. That includes super-sized victories by his two fiercest city council foes, Debbie 'O'Malley and Brad Winter, a decisive win by Councilor Don Harris in defeating the effort to recall him from office and approval of two ballot measures that strengthen the hand of the nine member council over this executive and the ones to follow.

(Complete results here. Video coverage here and here.

All this was done with the lowest voter turnout in city history. Only about 10% or 28,000 of the registered voters bothered to come out to decide four city council races, 10 bond issues and five ballot propositions. But that old cliché about your vote making a difference was never more true. Now, as they say, let's go to the videotape.


It was destined to be an evening of blowouts, symbolized by Councilor Harris' ability to muster 66% of the voters to keep him in office. We didn't see him lose one precinct. In victory, he blamed the recall on Mayor Chavez, although he said peace could be made. Don called the recall effort a "witch hunt" but he would not say whether he will seek re-election in 2009.

Whether this victory will strengthen him or not was hotly debated during the late night hours on our radio broadcast, but all agreed that Harris' heavy spending--nearly $50,000, ABQ's traditional reluctance to recall any elected officials and the fact that Don was not charged with any criminal conduct, were key reasons for his big win.


City Council President Debbie O'Malley crushed challenger Katherine Martinez in District Two in the city's North Valley, scoring a whopping 72% of the vote to secure a second four year term. She returns to the council in an even stronger position to challenge the Mayor who she has tangled with non-stop.

She told our KANW FM audience that the Mayor was gracious and called her with congratulations, and she expressed hope that the two could work together, but clearly her political position to oppose him has been strengthened.


What can you say about the astounding total Councilor Brad Winter came in with? Well, you can say by garnering 81% of the vote over challenger Paulette de'Pascal he scored the biggest contested council victory in city history. He also said he had spoken with Chavez who beat Brad in the 2005 mayoral race, setting off a personality battle that has become nearly legendary.

"It's like a marriage. Both sides have to compromise," commented Winter.


And how about seeing the suspense drain out of the four way race for council District 6 before the sun barely set? Lenton Malry came to our radio studio at 7:23 and gave the blow-out results for Rey Garduño from Bandalier Elementary and Highland High and the party was over--not for Rey, of course, who told us his organization was responsible for the 48% victory, easily eclipsing the 40% mark necessary to avoid a run-off election.

A mild surprise was the second place finish of Republican Kevin Wilson over Joanie Griffin. Wilson came in with 23% to Griffin's 20%. Garduño consolidated the progressive vote in the district from day one and never let go.


GOP Realtor Trudy Jones basked in the luxury of being unopposed on Election Night. She even took time out to tell us that Mayor Chavez, who was having a night out of Halloween 3, would have her support on the major issues. If only he could get four more of the councilors to go along with her.


That there was a keep the King in check mood among the miniature voting block that turned out was also seen by the narrow passage of a measure that will make it much harder in the future to launch recall efforts against elected officials. It passed with 52%. My analysts, Dem State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, GOP State Rep. Larry Larrañaga and Dem Rep. Al Park, said the recall of Harris, who argued it was the Mayor that was out to get him, played a role in voters passing this tougher recall provision. Al and Larry said all that after eating a plate of crow for predicting on Monday night and on Tuesday's blog that Harris would be tossed out of office.

Another proposition that made it clear Mayor Marty was being given a telegraph was approval of the measure allowing the city council to appoint members to boards and city commissions. That's a first, and when you lump it in with the council victories and the Harris win, the 11th floor has some olive branch extending to do. Or, as Councilor Sally Mayer put it, "Marty better bring the whole tree."

Still, this is the same Mayor whose platform was rebuked in the 2003 city election and came back strong to win re-election in '05.. Now more than ever he needs the strength to truly compromise. The jig is up. He remains down 6 to 3 on the council and with Republican Mayer pledging to sometimes defect, he faces a possible 7 to 2.

Harris was careful not to gloat over his win as were O'Malley and Winter. It was not as if they received a massive mandate. And as the mayor pointed out the council is a moving dynamic and the votes on all issues will not be against him all the time. It will often depend on the issues. But, as we have written here before, second terms are often when elected executives see the chickens come home to roost. On Election Night '07 the egg layers were not just roosting at City Hall, they were threatening to take over the place.


Thanks to everyone who helped with our KANW radio coverage last night. It was a blast. Field operations by Steve Cabiedes, Lenton Malry and Harry Pavlides--we called every race early. Photog Mark Bralley did double duty; Vic Segura was all over it at Government Center, producer Kevin Otero manned the main battle station. There's many others too numerous to mention, but their public service is noted and appreciated. And not to be forgotten are our generous sponsors--New Mexico's Enterprise rent-a-car, Ladera Golf, Bill Campbell Agency (Realtors) and Serrano & Sons Construction.

We started on KANW at 6:30 p.m. and finished around 11:30. City Clerk Randy Autio and County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver avoided the Election Night curse, getting the job done early, except for the results from one precinct in District 4 that were put in the mail, instead of being sent down to Government center. Mayor Chavez and all the council winners and losers were generous with their time for the public radio coverage and their contribution is appreciated. I'll do a wrap up of the election action this morning at 9 a.m. on 770 KKOB-AM radio.

Reporting to you the early morning after, this is Joe Monahan in Albuquerque, NM.

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