Monday, April 22, 2013

Mayor Race Shifts Ground: Dinelli Now Only Dem In Contest; A New Ethnic Angle And Campaign Cash Controversy, Also: The State Senate And Gun Control; Who Killed It? 

Mayor Berry
Pete Dinelli is going to need all the breaks he can get to take out politically popular Mayor Richard Berry, and in the early going he's getting a few.

The Friday decision by Margaret Aragon de Chavez, ex-wife of Mayor Marty Chavez, to forgo a run for the Mayor's office and endorse Dinelli means Dinelli will be the only Democratic candidate on the October ballot. He will face Berry and retired GOP APD Seargent Paul Heh, assuming as we are that all three will turn in sufficient petition signatures at the end of the month.

That's a plus for Dinelli in ABQ where the D's far outnumber the R's.

Chavez told us she had collected many more than the 3,000 petition signatures from registered voters she needed to get on the ballot, but it was the cash crunch that kept her from pulling the trigger. "The fund-raising numbers just didn't look good," she said.

With Margaret out, the prospect of either Berry or Dinelli getting 50% of the vote in the first round October 8 and avoiding a run-off election is back on the table. And it was only last week when a run-off looked more than likely.


With the former ABQ first lady declining a bid, there will be no candidate with a Hispanic last name on the ABQ mayoral ballot for for the first time since we started the modern mayoral form of government in 1974. (I got that from my yellowed, but still readable file on all mayoral elections. I covered the first one in '74 as a radio journalist for KUNM-FM radio).

Ethnicity is always a big factor in the mayoral contest and Dinelli says he is positioned:

My mother Rose Fresques was originally from Chacon, New Mexico in Mora County, and English was her second language. Her family dates back in New Mexico to 1650. My dad was a barber, a US disabled veteran of WWII and my mother was a waitress for 45 years. I am extremely proud of my ethnic heritage and I am very sensitive to this country's need for comprehensive immigration reform, an issue our present Mayor used as a wedge issue when he ran 4 years ago when he called Albuquerque a sanctuary city.


Pete Dinelli
The issue of campaign money wasn't only giving Chavez problems over the weekend. The two big feet in the race--Berry and Dinelli--were dealing with charges that they may have violated the city's campaign laws. But Berry much more than Dinelli.

The paper reported some $17,000 in questionable donations Berry received from people who work for companies that have city contracts. Dinelli had  only $200 in such donations, but it was enough to prevent him from getting the clean shot at the Mayor that he had hoped.

Dinelli took limited private donations and qualified for $360,000 in public financing. Berry has already raised over $250,000 in private money and is expected to double that and then some. Heh is not yet raising money,

Companies that do business with the city are clearly not allowed to give money to the mayoral candidates, but then it gets hazy. Can a person who works for someone who has a contract with the city give money?

Dinelli will hammer Berry for being the big money, big biz candidate and it could help him as he works to position himself as the populist, but unregulated super PAC money is bound to come into the race for both sides. That's when the public's eyes once again glaze on campaign money stories. The dishing over this is the prelude to the much larger and important debate over the city's economic crisis and the one at the ABQ police department, not to mention social issues like gay marriage.

Dinelli has scored early points by qualifying for public financing, by having Margaret Chavez opt put of the race and by revealing Berry's touchy position in collecting campaign cash. For Dinelli, April has not turned out to be his cruelest month.


A Democratic state Senator writes of the comments made here last Thursday by an Alligator saying that ABQ Dem Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto was a key player in blocking legislation that would require background checks for gun purchases:

Your Alligator cited the wrong Democratic Senator as blocking gun control legislation; it was George Munoz of Gallup who prepared twenty amendments for the bill on the floor during the final morning's debate, eventually causing Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to pull the bill and blast Munoz. Ivey-Soto did amend the bill in committee a week earlier, but even the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Miguel Garcia, credits Ivy-Soto with having strengthened, not weakened the bill.

We have not heard from Ivey-Soto but here's our Alligator's response:

Munoz was bad on this legislation too, but it was Ivey-Soto who stripped the bill in committee--I think to preserve his NRA rating. That's what advocates who sat through the committee said. Senator Richard Martinez initially held up the hearing in Senate Judiciary, but when it was heard, Ivey-Soto basically rendered it useless.

By the way, friends of Senator Martinez are pointing fingers at Majority Leader Sanchez, saying he pressured Martinez--chairman of Judiciary--to bottle up the gun control legislation. Martinez let it go forward after high-profile pressure. And Leader Sanchez is also taking hits for waiting until the final moments of the legislative session to get the bill out to the Senate floor where it died.


ABQ Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has had a switch at the top of her office at the start of her first term. Communications Director Dominic Gabello, who managed her 2010 campaign, is now the chief of staff. Gabello, a veteran political operative and east coast native, also managed Harry Teague's 2010 southern NM congressional campaign. He says:

Chief of Staff Letty Mederos who was hired by Michelle back in November was recruited away to the Education and the Workforce Committee to work for Rep. George Miller. Letty will be focusing on women and labor issues...Michelle asked me to succeed Letty as Chief of Staff, which I readily accepted. I look forward to my continued service to the residents of New Mexico’s First District.

As for Gabello's old job in communications, there's an opportunity there. He said those interested can email their info to NM01.Resumes@mail.house.gov

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