Monday, January 09, 2017

ABQ Mayor's Race Takes Firmer Shape; Lewis Is First Major R To Announce; Five Dems Test Waters; Some Announcing Soon; Our Complete Coverage And Analysis  

Lewis (Bralley)
The race for ABQ mayor began to firm up over the weekend with the first major Republican contender tossing his hat into the ring and five Democrats eyeing the office giving speeches to a liberal convention gathering. First, the GOP action. . .

Two term ABQ Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis came prepared for his Sunday entrance onto the city and state political stages. He had done pre-Christmas polling that showed the city's crime epidemic was far and away the most important issue for likely voters and he hammered away at it when he took to the podium. He said "our city is in a public safety crisis" and that we can't let "criminals define Albuquerque. . . Danger should not be the word that comes to mind when people think about Albuquerque."

(Complete video here. Lewis campaign platform here.)

Lewis, 46, is seeking to replace fellow R Richard Berry as mayor who is not seeking a third term. While he did not zing Berry directly he signaled when it comes to the deeply troubled APD he will not pick up where Berry left off:

We will embrace change not the status quo. As mayor, along with new police leadership, we will transform APD."

Lewis is the first mayoral candidate to indicate he may replace current APD Chief Gorden Eden. But he is not saying explicitly that Eden is out and that will be an issue until and if he does.

Lewis also said he would support the politically difficult proposal of consolidating city and Bernalillo County public safety agencies, arguing it would create "a new standard in accountability and efficiency."

On the city's struggling economy, Lewis did not offer much. He recited Republican boilerplate about making government friendly for business but relied on Berry's "Innovate ABQ" program for his economic message. In fact, he staged his announcement from one of the Innovate business incubators at Broadway and Central.

He took a bite out of the ABQ Public Schools by endorsing its break-up into smaller districts, calling it a "failed" district. The Legislature will tackle that issue in the upcoming session.

But it was on crime that Lewis made his mark. That is going to be the driver of the turnout in the affluent ABQ NE Heights which votes overwhelmingly Republican and has the power to advance a Republican contender into the mayor's office, despite the city being heavily Dem in registration. Turnout for mayoral elections is low so the always strong R turnout is magnified.


The fly in Lewis's soup is GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson who may announce a mayoral bid soon. Also, the rumor mill has former APD Sergeant and Republican Pal Heh making another mayoral run. That could split the GOP vote rather than unifying it around one candidate like Lewis.

If no candidate gets 50 percent at the October 3 ballot the two top vote getters advance to a run-off election a month later. If there's only one big R name in the race he is virtually guaranteed a run-off spot.

Still, Lewis has the support of the Harvey Yates faction of the GOP which has battled with Gov. Martinez's camp. That means GOP grassroots support and money from the NM oil fields. Lewis has raised well over $100,000 and has hired veteran campaign fundraiser Teri Baird. Insiders say Johnson will have to come with at least $250,000 to be competitive and give Lewis a run for the top GOP spot. Heh will run off the fat of the land and play in single digit territory.


In recent years Lewis has shed his image as a political neophyte. He had a disastrous and short-lived run for the ABQ congressional seat that may have matured him politically. And he has some running room when the Dems and Johnson try to hang Mayor Berry around his neck. Lewis voted against the controversial ART project for Central Avenue and he called for the resignation of then-APD Chief Schultz as the department began its long decline.

Like Berry, Lewis comes across as a solid citizen with an affable personality who pursues a moderate image but as a church pastor has important evangelical support. The Reverend Steve Smotherman of Legacy Church, sporting membership north of 10,000, was one of those introducing Lewis Sunday. That could put a lot of boots on the campaign trail.


Also announcing for mayor Sunday was retired APD police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes. She is running as an independent. Mayoral races are officially nonpartisan but everyone carefully watches party affiliation. She cited the crime wave as a reason for ABQ's inability to boost its economy. Can the unknown Garcia Holmes make the case for a nonpolitician?


A day before Lewis stepped forward ProgressNowNM sponsored a "Progressive Summit" that gave a crowd of 200 a sample of the five Dems looking at a mayoral run. They are:

Former BernCo Commissioner Deanna Archuleta has already announced; former NM Dem Party Chair Brian Colon will do so January 25th, State Auditor Tim Keller's camp says he'll announce this week; former mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli, who says he is leaning toward running again, and City Councilor Ken Sanchez who is looking at mayor but may run for the ABQ congressional seat in '18. A Senior Alligator on the scene analyzes the five minute speeches given by each of the hopefuls:

Keller, Archuleta and Dinelli seemed most tuned into the crowd and spoke well. Colon seemed a little out of touch giving a talk about his desire for the Mayor to be heavily involved in education and to “disrupt” the education system. Seemed a bit of a stretch in a town where crime and economic development are on the front page every day. Ken Sanchez just wasn’t progressive enough for the audience and seemed a bit out of his element.

Keller captured the audience and got the best reception with a talk about small business investments as a way to jump start the town. Deanna did the “we all need to get together and work things out message” and made some good, solid points. Dinelli was most targeted in his criticism of the current administration and was the most partisan. To this observer, it was clear that those three candidates read the audience and were well prepared. The other two missed the mark. But these campaigns are starting to gel — Keller and Archuleta clearly had staff working their campaigns.

The Dems face the same problem as the R's--a potential split of their vote, although it is more serious for the Dems. All five have a following and it's hard to see which one, if any, will break out. But that's what campaigns are for.

The complete speeches are here. They were shot by an amateur on the scene and can be difficult to follow. Better than nothing, but what happened to a nice good quality camera for a YouTube presentation to highlight their heroes ? Did George Soros cut the ProgressNM budget?

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