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Monday, October 23, 2023

Disabling Abel; Lie About Serving Time Appears To Knock Otero Out Of Hot City Council Race; Busted Hard But He Won't Walk Back False Statements, Also: Race Could Produce First Black Elected To Council, And: Big Biz Unpacks Big PAC Money In Council Contests  

Abel Otero
UPDATE: Monday afternoon Abel Otero said he would no longer actively campaign for the City Council and has endorsed Nichole Rogers for the District 6 seat: 

I will not continue to actively campaign for City Council. . .If you understandably do not believe that I should be your next city councilor, I urge you to consider supporting Nichole Rogers, who I know has worked hard for our community for many years and I believe she can make an exceptional city councilor.

It's one thing for a candidate to tell a bald-faced lie. It happens. But refusing to walk it back when faced with undeniable facts that prove the lie makes them unqualified to hold office because they suffer from a severe character defect. Such is the case with the well-tattooed Nob Hill barber Abel Otero, one of four candidates for the District 6 ABQ City Council seat in the SE Heights in the November 7 election. 

Asserting his bona fides as a man of the people, he told a tale of drug addiction and homelessness that included a stretch in jail but the facts demonstrate that he never saw the inside of a jail and his bizarre answer that he doesn't remember when he was locked up makes him and his candidacy all the more incredulous

There is no record he had ever spent time in an adult New Mexico corrections facility. . . Otero, 50, said he was convicted for aggravated assault and drug charges. . .He could not recall the exact years he spent in prison. . .But there is no record of a felony conviction, or any record involving drugs or assault, . .. Otero said he was held in a state correctional facility in Santa Fe, but could not recall the exact name of the institution, the warden at the time or his unit manager. He said he didn’t keep in contact with anyone he was incarcerated with who could confirm his time in prison. . . Otero attributed some of the memory gaps to his past drug use and the passage of time.. . . “This was so long ago, and I don’t understand why this is even playing out in public like that."

With Abel disabled, the race for the seat held by retiring Councilor Pat Davis enters a new phase. Davis has endorsed Otero. We asked him in the wake of the Otero train wreck whether he will cancel that backing. He did not respond. 

Until the wheels came off Otero was widely expected to make it to a run-off election. With four candidates it is unlikely any of them will take the needed 50 percent in the initial balloting to avoid such a runoff between the top two finishers.

DOWN TO THREE

Jeff Hoehn
The race is now essentially a three way one with Nichole Rogers, Jeff Hoehn and Kristin Raven Greene still viable. Of course the wise guy set cracked that only in ABQ does not serving time in prison become a liability. 

In the Nov. 7 balloting the odds now favor a run-off between progressive Rogers and middle of the road Democrat Hoehn. In a run-off Rogers would be favored. The district is so liberal it once was referenced to as the "Peoples Republic of the SE Heights." 

Despite that liberal lean a new twist has big business trying to make a breakthrough in the liberal bastion. 

PAC money from the conservative and Republican-oriented Commercial Association of Realtors NM CARNM and the NM Restaurant Association has come into the race in support of Hoehn, an experienced manager of nonprofits and head of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association. 

That may help Hoehn make the run-off but it could spell his demise in a run-off as he is labelled the de facto GOP candidate in the overwhelming Dem district. 

FIRST BLACK COUNCILOR?

There is a characteristic to the Rogers candidacy that could play heavily in her favor in a Democratic Party that prizes identity politics:

Nichole Rogers
She is "a Black and Hispanic woman, a single mother of two, a policy advocate, community organizer, and single mother" who served as the Liaison for the city's office of Black Community Engagement.

Rogers would in fact be the first African-American elected to the City Council since the Mayor/Council form of government was established in 1974. She has won the backing of Bernalillo County's first black sheriff, John Allen, as well as the endorsement of BernCo Commission Chair Adriann Barboa. 

Meanwhile, neighborhood activist Greene has been a leading voice in opposition to Mayor Keller's Gateway Center for the homeless but seen as trailing the two front-runners.

BIG BIZ MONEY

The business interest money in the Council races is now expected to spend $200,000 in the final three weeks of the campaign to elect conservatives, report campaign consultants. The HELP ABQ PAC reported last week the first $45,000 in contributions. They have already mailed on behalf of their candidates. 

Besides Hoehn in District 6, the PAC is spending for GOP Councilor Brook Bassan in NE Heights District 4 and Republican Don Champine in NE Heights District 8 which is being vacated by Republican Trudy Jones. 

Bassan and Champine are nearly shoo-ins for their districts but a Hoehn victory would be a major coup for the biz players. 

Hoehn can especially use the extra financial help. He opted not to qualify for $40,000 in public financing as the other hopefuls did and last week he reported only about $6,700 in his campaign account. 

While Hoehn differs with Mayor Keller on the Gateway Center, believing there should be smaller homeless shelters around the city, Keller's public works agenda and growth policies have for the most part been greeted warmly by real estate and other business interests.

City Hall watchers say they do not expect Hoehn would be a thorn in the administration's side but agree Rogers is favored to take the seat. She too has not spoken critically of the Mayor. 

In other words, the District 6 race, no matter the outcome (even if Otero or Greene were to defy the odds) is not seen as a game-changer for overall Council policy. 

NEW GOP GUYS

Horanburg
Rival Strategy Group
, an up and coming ABQ-based Republican consulting firm, is handling the mailing and strategy for the HELP ABQ PAC.

A co-founder of Rival is Michael Horanburg, a former chief of staff to GOP US Rep. Yvette Herell. The group is consulting her '24 campaign to take back the southern congressional seat which is now held by Dem Rep. Gabe Vasquez. Rival is also consulting other congressional races around the nation. 

Other Rival principals include former ABQ GOP state Rep. David Adkins and Paul Smith, who has extensive congressional campaign experience and grew up in Las Cruces.

With the robust business PAC account for the city election, this is the first GOP consulting group to emerge as a serious alternative to McCleskey Media Strategies which for years has dominated state Republican politics. 

COUNCIL OUTLOOK 

The ABQ Council is currently divided  5 to 4 with Democrats in the majority but conservative Dem Louie Sanchez votes mostly with the Republicans, often giving the GOP a majority of five. However, six votes are needed to override mayoral vetoes. 

Councilor Sanchez
Will Keller's veto pen be very active after the new Council takes over next year? Perhaps not. Experts point out that major elements of Keller's agenda are in place after nearly six years in office and now it's more about arguing over implementation rather than new initiatives like the soccer stadium. The Council has stalled the lease deal for that stadium proposed for Balloon Fiesta Park but is expected to approve it next month.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2023

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