Monday, September 09, 2019

The Sheriff Calls Out The Mayor; Gonzales Upends City Politics With Crime Raid In SE Heights And Refuses To Rule Out Mayoral Run 

Sheriff Gonzales
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales is calling out ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and if the Sheriff sticks to his guns the city could be in for one heckuva political spectacle.

It started last week when Gonzales planted his flag deeply in Keller's political base--the crime-ridden SE Heights. In an unprecedented move for a county sheriff, Gonzales released his deputies to fight the crime battle in the battered area without the explicit support of the Mayor or his police chief. But he was invited to come in by the people who count--those who live there. By week's end Gonzales was tallying up the illicit booty his deputies had collected and boasting of it on TV.

That led us to post on Facebook the recent scuttlebutt that Gonzales, a Democrat like Keller, may be prepping a 2021 run for Mayor. (He is limited to two terms as Sheriff). Then in a follow-up report Gonzales confirmed that he is indeed mulling over a mayoral run. That sent the Kellerites back on their heels as they assessed the impact of this Alpha male move that stunned them as well as the political community.

Then there was the Sheriff's hiring of veteran Dem consultant James Hallinan to provide "communication services" to the department for $24K a year. Hallinan says he is out of the political consulting business but it's an open secret that his relationship with the Keller Dems is on the rocks, furthering the Manny for Mayor rumor mill.

Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe not, but the day after Gonzales raided the SE Keller fired up a new Twitter feed for Spanish speaking citizens. That sent the Alligators into a frenzy, predicting that the Gonzales Movida could send the first term Mayor to the political center to choke off Gonzales' oxygen.

But Gonzales has unlimited air to breathe from the never-ending crime wave that is sapping the lifeblood from the city. The smidgen of good news for Keller is that it would be highly unusual for the electorate to reject him in favor of a law enforcement official but it has to be noted that these are unprecedented times. Also, Keller is not up for election until November 2021. He still has two years to make more noticeable headway against the epidemic.


Mayor Keller
Keller says he has made a difference and regularly releases statistics backing his case. But beleaguered citizens continue to push back hard, saying they don't see a difference. Many maintain that much crime is now going unreported because citizens have given up. That, they claim, skews the stats in favor of City Hall.

Some readers also complain that APD collects "information reports" for many auto break-ins and the like so victims can collect their insurance but does not report the incidents as crimes that are included in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.

Then there's the growing impatience with an APD that says its hands are tied by the Justice Department consent decree governing the agency, but continues to clock overtime that would make a glutton proud.

Gonzales showed Wednesday just how "handcuffed" APD is when he announced 51 felony and 25 misdemeanor arrests, the seizure of 45 pounds of meth, 3 pounds of heroin and 24 firearms in the SE Heights area renamed the "International District" from its old moniker of War Zone." (You be the judge on which one fits best.)

This latest Gonzales operation (and a previous one authorized by the Governor) have begun to redefine the narrative from one that says APD is doing all it can under the circumstances to. . .

"If the Sheriff can get results why can't APD and does this mean all those new cops won't really make a difference?"

APD has received a massive budget increase financed by higher taxes to pay cops more and hire more of them. But Keller was left with a department decimated by previous Mayor RJ Berry. He has said it will take years to straighten it out. But in politics you are rarely given years, especially as the trauma created by all the crime takes a devastating toll on thousands of victims.

Gonzales obviously sees an opening. He and his supporters believe the public is receptive to a more populist approach that puts getting tougher on crime at the top of the priority list and moves progressive items like banning plastic bags to the bottom.


With Gonzales teasing a mayoral run the progressive movement in city politics--while here to stay--appears to have peaked and hit its ceiling. 

The Sheriff has been elected twice, is a native Hispanic, a Marine Corp veteran and is tough as nails. He even refuses to allow his deputies to wear lapel cameras despite withering criticism. His natural base is Hispanic Democrats, Independents and many Republicans, if they choose not to field a candidate of their own. All of this is enough to send shivers up the spines of Keller and his well-paid circle at City Hall.

Regardless of the politics, Gonzales, who has had his own troubles steering his department, may be doing ABQ a favor by arguing that we can do better, that the incremental progress on crime that the city is being asked to settle for is not enough. Is it Manny's MAGA moment--Make ABQ Great Again? Stay tuned.

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