Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Keller Sails To Second Term As Mayoral Turnout Cracks 100,000 For First Time; Mixed Messages Delivered With Moderates And R's Scoring Points In City Council And School Board Races; Soccer Stadium Kicked To Curb In Landslide And Santa Fe's Webber Cakewalks To Re-Election  

Albuquerque voters delivered mixed messages amid a record voter turnout Tuesday, giving the city's progressive mayor an easy victory but also rewarding moderate Democrats and even a few Republicans in the Dem dominated city. The details. . . 

Mayor Tim Keller scored a sweeping victory over two rivals to secure a second four year term to lead New Mexico's largest city. Keller won 56 percent of the vote, easily passing the hurdle of 50 percent plus one to avoid a run off election with second place finisher, BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales who came in with 26 percent. Radio talker Eddy Aragon, the lone Republican in the race, placed third with 18 percent.

Full ABQ and BernCo results here. Statewide results here

In a speech to supporters at the Hotel ABQ Keller attributed his victory to his "building a foundation" to eventually overcome the city's crime crisis and put a dent in the growing homeless problem. 

Our Election Night analysts at KANW-FM radio also pointed to the weak oppositions campaign against Keller as a key reason for the win. Gonzales' candidacy nearly collapsed when he was found to have committed fraud in trying to qualify for public financing. Aragon's effort lacked cash and a message that failed to resonate past a segment of the GOP. As his opponents foundered, Keller ran a nearly picture perfect campaign. 

Still, Keller successfully steered the city through the Covid crisis, won approval of the Gateway Center for the homeless and benefited from a recovering economy. He told supporters he is not through. That could apply to not only his second term but what the 43 year old hopes is a career beyond that.


It appeared Keller won all nine council districts as he did when he was elected Mayor in a run-off election against Republican Councilor Dan Lewis four years ago. 

Part of the mixed messaging of the evening was the aforementioned Lewis who reclaimed his old Westside city council by defeating Dem Councilor Cynthia Borrego and returning him to the council chambers where he will be the new thorn in Keller's side and perhaps position himself for another mayoral run. 

The Lewis win gives the R's a long shot chance of reducing the council majority from 6 to 3 Dem to 5 to 4 Dem. Lewis won 52 percent of the vote to Borrego's 40% and avoided a run off election. 

The Dems also fell short in City Council Districts 7 and 9 in the NE Heights but they are positioned to take the seats in the December runoffs. Those were forced because no candidate in the two contests reached the 50 percent mark. In fact, in both of the races the Dems split their vote up and the lone R advanced to the runoff.

In District 7 the six way race saw GOP real estate agent Lori Lee Robertson take 32 percent to progressive Tammy Fiebelkorn 25 percent. The two will now get back on the campaign trail with Fiebelkorn working for the support of the other three Dems who ran and lost. Her chances will be good in a district that has been served by retiring liberal Dem Councilor Diane Gibson. 

In District 9 Rob Grilley, Jr. had a disappointing night as he nearly finished third in the three way race. He managed to edge out Byron Powdrell who received 28 percent to Grilley's 29. But it was Republican and small business owners Renee Grout who took the win with 42 percent. She and Grilley will face each other in the runoff. 


In District One on the westside small businessman and retired APD officer Louie Sanchez aced appointed Dem City Councilor Lan Sena 55 to 45. She was appointed by Keller to replace Councilor Ken Sanchez when he passed away but the district did not match up with her progressive politics. They did with those of Dem Sanchez who will now be an independent minded councilor and not a vote Keller can automatically count on.


Moderate Dem political analyst Sisto Abeyta said that ABQ voters were expressing frustration with the ABQ status quo in the city election but could not do it with the mayoral race where Keller was a runaway winner. Instead, he said they found their means of opposition via the city council contests. 


More mixed messaging showed in the races for APS School Board as three of the four ABQ board candidates backed by business groups won election, defeating their Dem rivals backed by union power. 

Not all of the business slate candidates reached 50 percent but they did not have to since there is no runoff elections for school board. Helping the newcomers was the fact that all of the seats were open with no incumbents and a much larger pile of cash at their disposal than their more liberal rivals. 

The mill levy for school buildings and a bond package--worth over $600 million over six years--passed but the mill levy won with only 52 percent while the bonds received  nearly 70 percent. The building of new schools came into question while the population here remains flat.  

As for that proposed $50 million bond issue to build a new soccer stadium downtown, it was DOA out of the gate. It lost heavy in the early vote and when all the votes were counted it was crushed 65 by 35 percent. That's the wealth owners of the NM United soccer teams spending some $900,000 in support of the bond. The only winner in that were the consultants who picked up big fees even in the face of an epic failure.


Mayor Webber
In Santa Fe, tire store owner Lee Garcia upset City Councilor Roman Tiger Abeyta, an ally of progressive Mayor Alan Webber who had a much easier time of it as he handily defeated Councilor Joanne Vigil Coppler by garnering 55 percent of the vote to her 35 and earning a second four year term. R Alexis Martinez Johnson received 8 percent.

The campaign against Webber had much bark but no bite. Like Keller, his able handling of Covid and efforts to curb homelessness overcame charges that he is a poor administrator and disconnected from the Hispanic culture of the city. Voters saw it otherwise. 

The tearing down of the obelisk turned out to be a big shrug but not the recovering capital city economy that Webber now presides over. Webber heavily outspent Vigil Coppler--about $500,000 to $175,000 and that also didn't  hurt. 


Turnout was heavy in Santa Fe and set a record in ABQ for a city election. At least 118,000 voters cast ballots in the ABQ mayoral race, far surpassing the record of 99,000 votes set back in the post 9/11 mayoral election. The percentage of registered voters who went to the polls was about 31 percent. The BernCo Clerk says that percentage may have been higher for the 2001 mayoral race, but never before has ABQ surpassed the 100,000 voter mark in a mayoral contest. 

The record was made possible by a change in state law authored by Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto that put the school board elections and a number of small offices on the city ballot as well as mayor and council. But the public was clearly energized by some of the races and the soccer stadium proposal in which nearly as many voted as the mayoral race--about 117,000. That the Covid pandemic has died down may have also given voters more incentive to cast ballots.


Thanks to our KANW producer Kevin Otero and our panel of experts, Rep. Moe Maestas, City Councilor Brook Bassan, former State Senator Dede Felman, attorney David Buchholtz, Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto and Steve Cabiedes. It was a solid broadcast in which hey hit all the angles. 

This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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