Thursday, October 14, 2021

Baghdad Or Burque? Downtown Crime Delivers More Stunners Amid Mayoral Campaign, Plus: PAC Supporting Manny Fires At Eddy And APS Keeps Big Money Election Quiet  

Here's video of the the latest ABQ mayoral debate aired on KOAT-TV Thursday night and here's a report on what happened.

Widespread early voting for the ABQ election begins Saturday. From BernCo Clerk Linda Stover:

Twenty early voting convenience centers will be open Oct. 16 – 30. Most locations are open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is not too late to register to vote and cast a ballot in the 2021 election. Same day registration is available at the 20 early voting convenience centers. Same day registration will not be available on election day. Voters may cast a ballot in-person or hand deliver their completed absentee ballot to any voting convenience center. There are also two outdoor drop boxes where completed absentee ballots can be dropped off; Alvarado Square, 415 Silver Ave. SW, 87102 or the Voting Machine Warehouse, 2400 Broadway Blvd SE, Building H, 87102. 

Is this a photo of a street in Baghdad or Albuquerque? 

The striking lawlessness occurred on downtown Central Ave. early Sunday morning where the bad guy was so emboldened he armed up with a semi-automatic rifle, waved it outside the car window and began shooting in the air. That's in downtown ABQ--not Baghdad. (Video and report here.)

The ongoing violent crime crisis may have desensitized much of the city but then bizarre incidents such as this pop up and the reality again sets in that ABQ has changed in fundamental ways. 

This latest crime shocker in the downtown area follows the August murder of a 13 year old at Washington Middle School by a fellow student, a road rage killing last Wednesday outside of the Central Grill near Old Town and windows of the downtown Bernalillo County government building being shot out. Authorities have arrested a 20 year old who they believe was responsible for both the downtown automatic gun fire and the window incident. They are seeking other suspects. 

All of this mayhem comes in the middle of a mayoral campaign, but with yearly homicides headed for triple digits and property and violent crime still among the worst in the nation, it's hard to see how this will change anytime soon--no matter who is elected. 


Voters will get another look at the three mayoral contenders tonight at 7 p.m. when KOAT-TV airs a one hour debate. Actually the debate already occurred. It was pre-taped via Zoom Tuesday night and there's an interesting backstory why. The ABQ Journal is a co-sponsor and editor-in-chief Karen Moses explains: 

The debate is being done virtually through Zoom rather than live and in person because one of the candidates has not been vaccinated. The process for this debate will be the same as was done for other "remote" debates, such as for the congressional races. The debate is conducted and then aired a couple days later. There is no editing of the debate or candidates' answers. KOAT prepares its intro and ending, which is added to the program. One reason for taping it ahead of time is to protect it from issues that can occur when conducting a Zoom event such as a candidate's internet being interrupted -- it obviously would not be fair if one candidate's internet went out in the middle of a live debate.

The candidate who is not vaccinated is Republican Aragon and he grumbled over the decision to move the debate to zoom because of his vax status. Mayor Keller and Sheriff Manny Gonzlaes have taken their shots. 


Gonzales has had a wheelbarrow full of chances to undermine Keller on crime. Just look at our lead story on the blog today. But he has failed to pick up the spear. Now the outside PAC that supports the Sheriff--Save Our City--may have gotten sidetracked. Rather than take the fight to Keller they are taking it to Republican Eddy Aragon. 

The PAC has filed a a complaint over Republican Aragon remaining on his afternoon KIVA-AM radio talk show, claiming he is violating city and federal rules. Aragon says he consulted with his lawyers before continuing the program and is doing nothing wrong.

What is wrong, says veteran political analyst and attorney Greg Payne, is the Gonzales supporters turning their guns on Aragon and not Keller:

This complaint is not going to convince anyone to vote for Gonzales over Aragon. This is an eyes glaze over issue for voters. Their campaign needs to be all about keeping Keller under 50 percent and forcing a run off. The Gonzales PAC and the Gonzales campaign need to focus on the real target--the incumbent mayor. Keller remains poised to get over 50 percent Election Night and take a second term. 

What's next? A Keller tsunami of money from his own campaign and probably from a number of outside groups. Manny and Eddy will have trouble being heard as those waves crash over the city. 


If approved, two ballot measures would bring in $630 million over several years but hardly anyone is talking about them, including the ABQ Public Schools that would receive the largesse if the mill levy and property tax is decided in their favor Nov. 2. 

There's a good reason for APD wanting to fly this package under the radar--the scandal that engulfed former State House Majority leader and APS administrator Sheryl Williams Stapleton. It was only recently that Stapleton was indicted on 26 felony charges. She is accused of stealing nearly $1 million from APS. The story was a real stunner and damaged the APS reputation. 

So there has been little or no paid media for the big money measures with APS apparently believing they will pass without much hype, and if there is hype it could break against them. 

Not a bad strategy. APS has lost on bond issues before and has learned. 

The biggest projects for that $630 million money would be replacing older schools. There would be no tax increase if the propositions are approved. An APS 
bond expert explains:

This will continue to slowly chip away at a whopping $7 billion capital infrastructure need of an aging school system where 40% of the buildings are 50 years or older. This coupled with burgeoning technology requirements and a progressively warmer climate (hvac) makes it hard to do more with a set revenue. 


So who will be the new sheriff in town? Former Dem state rep and retired APD detective Pat Ruiloba hopes it will be him. His announced he is running for the seat held by Sheriff Gonzales who will give it up later this year if he wins election as mayor or when his second term expires at the end of next year. In the event Gonzales left early the BernCo Commission would name a replacement. Otherwise, the sheriff position will be on next year's primary and general election ballots.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Pricey Competition For Dem Nod For Attorney General As Colón and Torrez File Money Reports, Plus: New Keller TV Launches First Negative Volleys At Gonzales; Blog Fact Check  

Brian Colón
It appears to be a highly competitive race for the Dem nomination for attorney general and the price tag to win it could very well go over the $1 million mark. 

Campaign reports filed with the SOS this week by State Auditor Brian Colón  and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez show Colon with $1.002 million in cash already on hand and Torres had $555,000. 

Colón has the cash lead, but Torres' first DA campaign for the Dem nomination received $107,000 in support from a Super PAC funded by liberal financier George Soros. Other progressive money could also come in to close the gap so there is more wait and see to play out.

Colón reported raising $1.060 million from April thru October 4. $367,000 of that was transferred from his auditor campaign fund. He also donated $5,000 to his own campaign. He reported spending $58,000 with his biggest expenditure $36,000 for polling by Lake Research in DC. 

Among Colon's well-known donors was PNM CEO Patricia Vincent Collawn who gave $5,000. 

Approval of Avangrid's merger with PNM is currently pending before the state and current Attorney General Hector Balderas has recommended the merger go through. 

ABQ trial attorney Randi McGinn gave $1,500 each to Colon and Torrez; restaurant owner Nick Kapnison gave Colón $5,000 as did Fresquez Concessions. Heritage Hotels owner Jim Long and spouse Rebecca Long donated a hefty $20,000. Contributions are limited to $5,400 but donors can give for both the primary and general election. 

Other donors to Colón's campaign include Tobacco giant Altria, $1,500 and former AG Gary King who gave $1,000. 

Raul Torrez
Torrez, serving his second four year term as DA, reported raising $637,000, including the transfer of $323,000 from his campaign DA account. His prominent donors include ABQ trial attorney Bert Parnall of TV fame who gave $4,000 and his law firm came with another $5,200 that we counted. 

Auto dealer Bob Pitre donated $5,000; former US Attorney John Kelly, $1,000 and ABQ trial lawyer Lisa Curtis, $1,500. 

Torrez reported spending $82,000 with over half of that going to out-of-state campaign consultants. 

There is no announced Republican candidate for AG. The office rarely goes R with the last Republican winning the post in 1986. 

While Colón and Torrez are already being tested for their ability to finance a campaign, their first voter test isn't too far off. In March of '22 the Dems will hold their pre-primary convention where delegates will vote on the candidates who will need at least 20 percent support to get an official spot on the June primary ballot. The winner of that convention will gain significant momentum. 


After a couple of weeks of playing Mr. Nice Guy, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller's TV ads took a decided turn to the negative with this 30 second message. The spot extolls Keller's crime fighting abilities--his chief political weakness-- and calls out Sheriff Gonzales on several fronts. The transcript:

How do we fight crime? 

Mayor Keller. He tripled the homicide unit. 400 new police officers. The Gateway Center will fight addiction and homelessness and Tim Keller is fighting for new laws to detain gun crime suspects and end the revolving door. And Manny Gonzales? Caught committing campaign fraud. Says no to body cameras and murders go unreported. Manny Gonzales, dangerously wrong for Mayor. 

The fact check:

It's true the Keller administration hired 400 new cops but the target set by the mayor of having 1,100 officers still eludes him because of the many police retiring from APD. At last count there were only 920. 

It seems as if Keller is doing a preemptive attack on the lack of police which combined with the record homicide rate leave him vulnerable to the expected counterattack by Gonzales. 

The Gateway Center may indeed "fight addiction and homelessness" but that doesn't necessarily mean those sticky problems will get any better. 

"Fighting for new laws to detain gun crime suspects and end the revolving door" will have to consist largely of the Mayor lobbying the Legislature which has the authority over those matters, not him. 

As for Gonzales "committing fraud," his campaign did so by using forged signatures to try to qualify for public financing. The City Ethics Board slapped Gonzales with a $2,000 fine and reprimand. 

The City Clerk's charge that fraud was committed and denied Gonzales $600,000 in public financing also went before various courts where Gonzales lost. 

As for the Sheriff saying "no to body cameras," he did--for years. But in February before he undertook his mayoral bid, Gonzales gave in and began to deploy the cameras he so vigorously resisted.  

As for not reporting murders, the newspaper had to file an IPRA to find out the latest crime stats stats for BernCo because Gonzales refused to release them. However, Keller has had his own crime stat issue. In 2019 he announced the numbers showed a substantial drop in ABQ crime which turned out to be untrue when the stats were corrected.

The negative part of this ad is the most effective because it basically does little to veer from the truth. The positive part is more tricky for Keller as it indicates to viewers that crime will go down at some unknown point in the future, but the crime of today is so rampant persuading voters of that is a tougher sell then the takedown of Gonzales. This is the home of New Mexico politics. 

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Manny Mo: Raises $338K After Public Finance Fiasco; Ties Tim With Cash On Hand, Plus: City Council Money Surprise, Also: MLG Campaign Coffers Bulge As She Pays Off Crotchgate; Dow Leads GOP Money Race  

Aragon, Keller And Gonzales
There's a flood of campaign money reports to follow this week--from local elections to the '22 contests. We take a first bite out of the apple with looks at the ABQ mayoral race and what MLG has been up to. 

The most crucial campaign finance reports of ABQ Election '21 were filed Monday revealing the resources candidates have for the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election. 

ABQ Mayor Tim Keller has been the money leader since the start, qualifying for over $600,000 in public financing.

In the campaign report covering September 7 through Oct. 4, Keller reports spending $114,000 on a TV buy, paying the progressive consulting firm of Neri Holguin $32,000 and receiving a $5,000 in-kind office rental contribution from Ed Garcia of the Garcia automotive family.

That family is major investor in downtown real estate. Ed Garcia is also a co-owner of the NM United soccer team that is backing a $50 million bond to build a downtown area soccer stadium which Keller supports. 

The PAC supporting Keller, Build back 'Burque, reports raising $61,000 for the roughly one month reporting period, spending $24,000 and having $89,000 in cash on hand for the final weeks. 

Major PAC contributors include retired Dem Judge Ann Kass giving $1,000; two teacher PACS gave a total of $5,000 and Heritage Hotels owner Jim Long gave $5,000.

The PAC reports paying over $22,000 for out of state political consultants. 

One of the Alligators said the PAC supporting Keller has been “taking a nap” and “they really need to step it up now that Gonzales has showed some money muscle. They should have double what they’re reporting.”


Keller reported $314,000 in cash on hand October 4 so Manny Gonzales finally beat Keller in one category. He had more cash on hand--$333,000 vs. Keller's $314,000. 

Gonzales raised $338,000 and spent only $26,000. That gives him the fuel to get on the air and press his attack against Keller and hope it is enough to keep the Mayor under 50 percent and force a December run-off.

After a long unsuccessful legal battle to secure public financing the BernCo sheriff was forced to switch to private financing. He had a solid go of it, although his reports do not yet include any legal bills from his court fights (or in-kind legal donations).

The PAC supporting Gonzales, Save Our City, reported raising $46,000 spending $81,000 and having $57,000 in cash on hand. 

Major contributors included $10,000 from real estate heavy Daskalos investments. (The outside PACs have no restrictions on amounts donated). The PAC reported spending $27,000 on digital ads. 

Gonzales' campaign received backing from numerous ABQ owned businesses. Payam Ghoreishi of the construction biz gave the maximum allowable contribution of $6,250. $6250 also came in from from F & R Tafoya Painting and another $6,250 from company owner James Tafoya individually. 

Other major donors included $6,250 from Rodgers Plumbing and Heating; four members of the Melloy auto family kicked in $8,000; Alejandro Lara and Jason Nash of Argus private security each donated $6,250. 

The Dem Sheriff's GOP consultant Jay McCleskey received $6,800 for producing mailers and fundraising and his campaign manager from California was paid $13,300 in the period. 

The debate in this mayoral election is the magic number of 50 percent--not whether Keller will come in first. Gonzales helped himself in bringing that target a little closer in sight by recovering somewhat from his lengthy public financing fiasco. But all that wasted time will cost him. How much is the question. 


Eddy Aragon, the lone Republican in the mayoral race, raised $63,800 in the period, spent $51,718 and had cash on hand of $25,455. 

Big Republican money is staying on the sidelines but Aragon, via his weekday radio broadcast and a social media surge, came with strong grassroots donations of less than $100.

There were notable large donations, including $6,250 from the candidate's father; $5,000 from Asgard LLC, an information technology firm and a $5,000 individual donation from Roxanne Baltz of Rio Rancho who is affiliated with Asgard. 

Aragon has spent $26,000 on billboards, $14,000 for T-shirts, hats and other campaign paraphernalia. He says he is looking at doing cable TV ads for the final stretch. The radio talker reports raising a total of $96,000 since his campaign started in mid-August. 


Lori Robertson
The Alligators are splashing over an unusual sighting in the city election--a well-financed Republican city council candidate in heavily Democratic Council District 7 in the near NE Heights and Uptown. 

She is Lori Lee Robertson, 48, a commercial real estate agent with Colliers who has tapped the real estate community and GOP donors for about $41,000. Two Democratic candidates--Tammy Fiebelkorn and Travis Kellerman--each qualified for about $44,000 in public financing so Robertson has kept pace with them. 

There are six candidates in the race to succeed retiring Dem Councilor Diane Gibson so a run-off seems inevitable with no candidate expected to reach 50 percent.

Could one of those run-off contenders be Robertson whose donations include $1,499 from real estate group NAIOP and $1,500 from former NM GOP chairman Harvey Yates?

She has the campaign group Majority Strategies handling her effort and with about $23,000 in cash on hand will be a presence in the district's mailboxes.

Robertson has not been shouting her Republicanism, going with a generalized platform with few specifics. That's not surprising. The district is 49 percent Dem and only 25 percent GOP. Even if she manages to get into a run-off the odds of victory are slim. 

Fiebelkorn, an environmental and business consultant, is being handled by progressive consultant Eli Lee and is seen as a leading contender along with fellow Dem Travis Kellerman, a founder of the Lavu tech company.

More on the District 7 race here.


Even though ABQ elections are nonpartisan, party affiliation counts. There are six Dems currently on the nine member council and that could go to seven--a historic high. 

In District 9 in the far NE Heights, Democrat Rob Grilley Jr. is running an aggressive campaign against GOP contender and business owner Renee Grout who is fighting to keep the seat in the R column as longtime GOP Councilor Don Harris retires. Dems point out the once conservative district has become increasingly blue. Grilley is running as a Dem moderate, cautioning against defunding the police. 

More on that contest here.

The R's would like to pick up the seat of Dem Northwest Councilor Cynthia Borrego. Former GOP Councilor Dan Lewis is running in that District 5 race but the area has also drifted more blue since Lewis left office. Political newcomer Phil Ramirez is also running. More on the contest here.


Hallinan and MLG
There are a number of numbers in play in the '22 Guv race:

Two of them are the impressive $2.5 million MLG reports raising from April to October (and with $2.1 million in cash on hand) and her mediocre approval number of 46% in an August PPP poll.

Oh, and there's another number--$150,000. That's the new and higher amount MLG's campaign reports paying to former campaign staffer James Hallinan who accused her of sex harassment by throwing a bottle of water on his crotch and having a laugh over it. The case was settled out of court and the $150K appears to be the final hit for the Guv. Well, at least financially:

 Lujan Grisham originally called the alleged crotch grab ‘bizarre,’ 'slanderous’ and ‘categorically false' when trying to discredit her victim -- just like the disgraced Andrew Cuomo," said RGA spokesman Will Reinert. "Now she has doled out $150k in settlement money. Michelle Lujan Grisham must treat this issue with the seriousness that comes with a 6-figure settlement and apologize to the victim and the people of New Mexico for her behavior."

MLG has strongly denied the allegations and campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer says they settled the case to avoid legal expenses and "prevent any distraction" as Covid raged. But the R's know paydirt when they see it and will continue digging. 

As for Hallinan, besides having plenty of money to pay the mortgage, he is the consultant for the Save Our City PAC working to take out Mayor Keller and is also consulting westside city council candidate Louie Sanchez. 


Meanwhile, T or C State Rep. Rebecca Dow leads the GOP Guv candidates in the money race. She raised about $440,000 from April to October but $105,000 of that was a transfer from her state representative account. 

Contender Greg Zanetti ponied up $185,000 of his own cash to kick-start his effort, according to reports filed with the SOS this week.

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block said he was pleased with the $86,000 he raised in the six month period covered. 

The problem? These numbers are minuscule in comparison to the towering amounts that the Dem Guv is compiling. 

Where it's at:

Dow is clearly the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, absent an entry by weather watcher Ronchetti who may have been iced for good by MLG’s money machine. R's may now start talking about Dow having Block as her Lt. Gov. to form an urban/rural, female/male ticket. They could do worse. 


Finally, on the crowded money front today:

(The PAC) New Mexico United for All, spent $422,665 last month filling mailboxes and TV airwaves with pro-stadium messaging. The committee is funded exclusively by New Mexico United, the second-tier professional soccer team slated to become the proposed stadium’s anchor tenant. United poured $525,000 into the committee in the last month. 

Hey boys, if you have that kind of money you don't need any from Mr. and Mrs. Albuquerque. Just sayin'.

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Keller Foes Getting Around To Crime Crisis; Mail Attack Opens Negative Phase Of Mayoral Campaign, Plus: The Candidates On "Encampments" And Soccer Team Owners Trying To Turn Anti-Stadium Tide. 

It's getting late in the game but ABQ's record homicide rate has finally arrived in paid media as foes of front-running ABQ Mayor Tim Keller begin the drive to drive him down in the polls. 

The entire summer went by with BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales mired in controversy over  public campaign financing (he didn't get any) and with Republican Eddy Aragon not emerging until August as an official candidate.

The months squandered will have to be made up with a high-powered, laser-focused attack on the incumbent and even then the best the opponents can expect is to stop him from reaching 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 2 which would force a runoff election with the runner up.  

Veteran political analyst Greg Payne has predicted here that there will be no runoff with Keller topping 50 percent. A consultant who has worked against Keller in the past asserts:

Crime is such an overwhelming issue and penetrating the community so much that I believe the misgivings about his administration are enough to force a runoff election.

The mail hit on Keller posted here come from the Save Our City PAC that is supporting Gonzales and as of early September had $92,000 in cash on hand. 

The PAC attack is money well spent given that the murder spree is Keller's chief weakness, calling into question his leadership of APD and reminding voters of the anguish and trauma that the ceaseless crime crisis has caused. 

Gonzales and Aragon have strived to take Keller down in the mayoral forums without much success. They get another chance this Thursday when the only prime time mayoral debate airs at 7 pm on KOAT-TV.


This letter from reader Kelley Vigil helps explain why in the face of a crime wave Keller continues to lead:

I've watched all three forums of the candidates with the hope of learning exactly what Keller has done wrong on crime. Aragon and Gonzales have failed to make that case. My take is Gonzales doesn’t have the skill set to run a city and makes things up. He would be in over his head and the Republicans who put him in office would be running the city. Manny would be their little Trojan Horse. 

Aragon is grandiose and scary. “Encampments” for the homeless, really? Aragon, in the NM Black Voters Collaborative was ignorantly offensive to the moderator, calling her by the wrong name and thanking her for a “colorful” debate. 

Both would undo any progress Keller has made the last 4 years in areas other than crime. Keller, although a failure on crime, is still the safer bet for me. He knows the issues and is a manager and executive. Now he needs to figure out in the next four years how to rein in crime. Where he’s failed and what can be done different is a conversation I’d like to see. For now, Keller is the least unpleasant of three choices. 


On encampments for the homeless that Vigil mentioned, Aragon says: 

We can use it as a temporary measure where we establish connection with them, give them 30 days, we can figure out where we can transport them, if we can get them back home. If there’s something that’s broken there, we can figure out something else we can do. 

 Keller says: 

. . . He would want the authorized camps to be small, scattered and controlled to mitigate issues like substance abuse, but that he’s open to the concept if faith-based organizations or other agencies want to try it. 

Gonzales says he is against sanctioned camps for the homeless and would like to see more homeless people arrested for criminal activity.


The pro-soccer stadium crowd is hitting the mailboxes heavy after a late September PPP poll showed 59 percent of ABQ's likely voters are against the proposed $50 million bond issue to get the stadium built (city consultants say it it could cost upwards of $80 million with land and other expenses). 

One of the latest mailers from NM United is posted here as they try to pull off an upset. They have plenty of money for mailers, but not much momentum or excitement. The best reason they can muster for the stadium is a promise of 780 temporary construction jobs. 

NM United has done a fine job of creating enthusiasm for their game on the soccer field but their play on the campaign trail can't find the net. Not that it's an easy target. ABQ voters have weightier items on their plates than building a soccer stadium and placing it near the forlorn downtown.  

It's not only fiscal conservatives opposing the stadium. Many progressives are joining the bandwagon--like Lissa Knudsen who has already voted and writes on Twitter

I voted against (the stadium) because I believe public bond money should be used for affordable housing, athletic spaces we can all participate in not just watch, more and better public transportation, and accessible high quality substance use treatment facilities. 

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