Thursday, November 02, 2023

ABQ Councilor Bassan Breaks Silence; Calls Voter Fraud Allegation "Dirty Trick"; Drags Keller Into Fray; Foster Campaign Says Bassan "Lying To Voters"; Animated District 4 Battle Tops The Card In City Election '23  

Pro-Bassan Mailer
Embattled ABQ GOP City Councilor Brook Bassan broke her silence on the allegation that her Council policy aide may have committed voter fraud by registering to vote in April at Bassan's NE Heights District 4 home when she actually lives on ABQ's westside and then making a donation to help Bassan qualify for public financing of her campaign.  

Bassan echoed to the newspaper a statement her aide Dawn Marie Emilio gave the blog earlier this week, calling the allegation a "dirty trick.”

She also dragged Mayor Tim Keller into the fray:
Bassan called it a “last-minute dirty trick” to distract voters from issues like crime. “I’m disgusted that the mayor’s team is so desperate to win this election that they’re willing to falsely attack this young woman, knowing full well their complaint will be dismissed as baseless after the election. . .Bassan said when Emilio first moved in (to Bassan's house), they were both uncertain how long she would stay. Bassan said she was unaware that the policy analyst had re-registered at the address, but Emilio was “entitled to do so.”. . .

Neri Holguin, campaign manager for Abby Foster, Bassan's Dem foe, also worked for Mayor Tim Keller's 2021 successful re-election. In that race Sheriff Manny Gonzales suffered greatly when Holguin discovered irregularities in his nominating petition signatures. The court hearings over the matter derailed Gonzales and Keller won in a landslide. 

Gonzales' campaign was managed by longtime GOP consultant Jay McCleskey who is now consulting Bassan. 

Foster's campaign came with this response:

Foster mailer on Bassan
It's unconscionable that Bassan would throw her assistant under the bus and deny any knowledge that Emilio registered to vote a her own house. That's not leadership. That's lying to the voters and not taking responsibility for her actions. 

Emilio's vague media statement seemed to intimate that she was faced with some sort of domestic turmoil at her Westside home that prompted her to move into Bassan's house but she did not say it was domestic violence or that she had contacted law enforcement. 

Our sources say Emilio's partner at the Westside home works for the ABQ fire department. 

Emilio said in her statement:

It’s a shame that someone opening their home to another when they are in need is being turned into false allegations and exploited for political purposes.

David Esdale, a resident of District 4, said in his complaint to the Ethics Board that was processed Wednesday but because of board rules will not be heard until after the election, that he was concerned that Bassan. . . 

. . .was using her position as a City Councilor and direct supervisor of Emilio to encourage and consent for Emilio to change her voter registration and vote for Bassan.

While Bassan said she was "unaware" that Emilio had reregistered at her home, Emilio also donated $5 to Bassan to help her qualify for public financing of her campaign. There were only some 400 such donations required to qualify and the list of those giving is closely monitored by the candidates and their campaigns. Was Bassan also not aware of that donation from Emilio--a donation that would be a violation of election law if Emilio was not a legal resident of the district?


Bassan also faces questions over misrepresenting her educational background. She claimed on the Journal questionnaire in 2019 that she had a bachelor's degree in criminology and did so again this year. She said it was a "mistake" but when the newspaper published the incorrect information in 2019 she did not correct it. Only when it was revealed this year did Bassan stop claiming the degree. 

The Foster campaign is already in the mailboxes in District 4 using the Bassan controversies against her in the lean Republican district. The race is now seen by our analysts as close with some labeling it a toss-up because of the allegations and Bassan's responses. 

Certainly this battle will be a hot topic when we gather our experts before the KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com microphones Tuesday night at 6:45 to anchor exclusive continuous coverage of City Election '23. 


There are elections across the state Tuesday, not just in big BernCo. While the turnout will be smallish for the off-year balloting, there is plenty to decide. 

To find out what's on your ballot check out this link from the Secretary of State for your personalized sample ballot. It will save you a lot of time when you get to the polls.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Election '23: Keller Flies Below The Radar And Avoids Becoming The Target; Plus: Reader Comment on Councilor Bassan Imbroglio 

Mayor Keller
So where is Mayor Tim Keller at in the four city council races on the ballot next Tuesday? Not much of anywhere it turns out. Unlike the election four years ago when Keller was busy endorsing council contenders (including Councilors Davis and Benton) this time around he has laid low.

The hands-off strategy has benefitted the two term mayor who may very well run for a third in 2025. He has not been the target of negative mail or pesky robocalls by any of the council hopefuls hoping to cash in on any weakness--real or perceived--that Keller has with voters. Dem political consultant Sisto Abeyta explains:

Keller has not become an issue in this campaign because he has not made himself an issue. Because of that this will not be any sort of referendum on his administration. 

Not that Keller is not keeping a very close eye on the action. His campaign manger, Neri Holguin, is handling Dem Abby Foster who is running against Brook Bassan in the District 4 NE Heights race that was set on fire this week. She is also consulting Joaquin Baca in District 2 in the Downtown and North Valley where Baca is expected to win. 

A Bassan defeat would be a somewhat unexpected gift for the Dems and Keller but they did position themselves--just in case. And that proved to be prescient. 

Even a Bassan win comes with benefits for Keller now that she has been hurt by charges of alleged voter fraud and for misrepresenting her educational background. Here's how one Keller ally sees it:

Brook has tried to position herself as the chief critic of the administration. She wasn't good at it. Now with much less credibility, she won't have the influence she might have had in a second term. 

When it comes to Election '23 by saying nothing, Keller has said it all. 


It turns out we will be saying quite a lot about the election next Tuesday night. We'll be back on the air on KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com to bring you the latest election results and analysis starting at 6:45 p.m. We'll have more on that in the days ahead. 

Back on the campaign trail, we turn to the mailbag for reaction to the developments with Councilor Bassan, covered extensively on our Monday and Tuesday blogs. One of our Senior Alligators says the rules of the city Ethics Board are cutting against the councilor:

Joe, The complaint filed against Councilor Bassan is yet another example of the weaponization of ethics complaints. Before the creation of the Ethics Board, a candidate would send out a press release with accusations against their opposition. Now, a campaign finds someone to file an “ethics charge” on their behalf with the exact same allegations. Per the City Charter, the "Board shall not adjudicate a complaint filed against a candidate less than seven (7) days before election day.” 

Ms. Foster’s campaign knew this when they found a person to file a charge against Bassan as a campaign tactic. This is not to comment on the underlying charges against Councilor Bassan, nor to excuse if anything was done that is inappropriate or illegal. However, Ms. Foster’s campaign set up the specter of an ethics charge with no resolution as they enter the last week before the election." 

Interesting. Should the Ethics Board not accept any complaints in the last week of the campaign and hold them over until after the voting? 

Democrat Barry Simon is happy to take a partisan outlook on the Bassan imbroglio:

The sad thing about the “Bassan Incident” is that it is so Republican. Have Democrats played fast and loose on occasion? Yes. But this is normal strategy for Republicans. And so stupid. She doesn’t remember if she has a bachelor’s degree from what college in what area of study. Really? Her assistant lives with her or doesn’t live her or maybe lived with her or… And they say these things with a straight face. No wonder politics today is such a mess. Truth is replaced by “truthiness” and alternative facts as our political institutions sink faster than the Titanic. .


Former ABQ Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael is a lifelong Democrat. Once he even ran for the Dem nomination for Governor. So what does he get as a retirement present as he departs the city? How about the symbol of the Republican Party:

Mayor Tim Keller and City leaders dedicated the elephant pavilion in the Albuquerque BioPark’s new Asia exhibit to longtime public servant Lawrence Rael, who is retiring at the end of this month. The elephant viewing deck is now named the “Lawrence Rael Pavilion.” During his long career in local government, Rael has had a hand in major projects that have helped create opportunities and amenities for families in Albuquerque. This includes work on the BioPark. . .

What? There's not a donkey pavilion to name for Rael? 

No one told Rael but whoever has the elephant pavilion named after them gets to clean up after the elephants. Well, not to worry. He got used to cleaning up that stuff at City Hall. 

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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Bassan Council Race Seen Tightening In Wake Of Two Ethics Revelations; Voter Fraud Charge And Misstating Education Background Put Race "In Play", Plus: New State Police Chief On Fighting Fentanyl 

Councilor Bassan
Snared by two major missteps ABQ City Councilor Brook Bassan can now expect a close election next Tuesday--or worse. 

So say a variety of informed political players monitoring the final action in NE Heights District 4 where Bassan is on defense in her contest with Democrat Abby Foster. 

Predictably, the Foster camp is now forecasting a "very tight" election but their prognostication is not being dismissed by neutral observers. For example: 

Brook opened the door to this with her misrepresentation of her educational record. And the allegation of voter fraud involving her City Council policy aide has a whiff of authenticity. Her district has become a bit more Democratic since she won four years ago and Democrats are now getting excited. I think we could be in toss-up territory. 

So opined Dan Klein, retired from APD and who now wears a second hat as a journalist and commentator. 

Attorney and former ABQ City Councilor Greg Payne put it succinctly:

The race is now in play. It is a toss-up. 

An ethics complaint was filed with the Board of Ethics Monday over the voter fraud allegation by  District 4 resident Ralph David Esdale but is not expected to be addressed until after next Tuesday's election. The complaint is here

One of Our Senior Alligators cites Bassan's previous close race in the district as evidence that the fresh charges are a threat to her re-election:

Joe, in 2019 Brook beat Democrat Ane Romero by the small margin of 53.4% or 4,186 votes to 46.6% or 3,651 votes. That's only 535 votes. If Foster runs an effective attack campaign in the final week she will get close and maybe even win. 

The Foster camp and groups supporting her campaign are preparing to mail and phone the district with the allegations. 

Bassan's misrepresentation of her education background is not something that voters can easily dismiss, said political veteran Mike Santullo, a former communications director to ABQ Mayor Ken Schultz:

The problem is that she not only said she had a bachelor's degree in criminology on her first ABQ Journal questionnaire in 2019 but she said it again this year. When she saw  in the paper what she calls a "mistake," why didn't she immediately correct the error? Seems she didn't want to and she did it again this year. Now she could be in a world of hurt Election Night.


As of blog press time, Bassan had made no public statement on the voter fraud allegation but the campaign did roll out her City Council policy aide, Dawn Marie Emilio, to explain on the Monday blog why Emilio had registered to vote in her boss's district in April of this year and even give her a small donation to help her qualify for public financing when she did not live in the district. But the Foster camp seized on that statement to raise more doubts:

Monahan reported Bassan had “no comment” and instead had her assistant respond to the allegations, saying she temporarily moved in with Bassan “for personal reasons.” Follow up questions to Bassan:

--How long did Emillio live with Bassan? If the stay was permanent enough to go through the trouble of changing her voter registration (coinciding with her boss's reelection campaign and public financing process), why did Emillio keep her mailing address at her partner's house on the Westside? 

--Emilio stated that she has since moved out of Bassan's house. Why didn't she change her registration when she moved out? 

--Bassan has prided herself on being forthright with the voters. What role did Bassan play in this temporary change of registration? 

--Did Bassan suggest that a public employee she supervises change her voter registration to benefit her campaign? Is this another "simple mistake" like lying about her education credentials? 

--Emillio is at risk of facing serious state charges for voter fraud. Was she instructed to do so by her employer? 

Engaging in voter fraud is reckless and fundamentally hurts the public trust in elections and democracy. With the election just eight days away, Bassan owes it to voters to respond truthfully and immediately to these allegations of voter fraud and a cover up.  

Again, we have asked Bassan for comment.


Chief Weisler
New Mexico State Police Chief Troy Weisler writes of his agency's fight against fentanyl and a comment made here that the department's recent crackdown on DWI may have been better spent on drug busts.

I saw on your Wednesday post that you thought some of our manpower would be better deployed to seek out loads of fentanyl being raced up the interstate. I wanted the share a press release with you to let you know that many of our people are doing just that. We understand fentanyl and the overall drug epidemic are a massive problem in the state. . . The State Police will continue to work both day and night to protect the citizens of this great state. 

The New Mexico State Police recently restructured some of its investigative resources and has created a Crime Suppression Bureau (CSB) purely focused on proactively tackling major crime problems around the state. The Bureau has units focusing on interdicting drug shipments, dismantling drug trafficking organizations, apprehending outstanding fugitives, and arresting auto theft offenders. In addition, multiple agents within CSB are part of multi-agency task forces with federal and local partners. 

From July 1 to September 30, 2023, members of the Crime Suppression Bureau have been tackling crime in high numbers and seizing deadly narcotics destined for our communities. During that time, their activity includes the following seizures and arrests. 64 Kg (141 pounds) of Methamphetamine (approx. street value of $1,307,602) 449,000 fentanyl pills (approx. street value of $2,740,577) 1.8 Kg (4pounds) of cocaine (approx. street value of $52,449) 177 felony arrests 10 misdemeanor arrests 67 recovered stolen vehicles 17 firearms “In just 3 months, we have removed significant amounts of drugs and guns off the streets. These seizures will help reduce the devastation guns and drugs are having on our New Mexico Communities.” 

Weisler was named State Police Chief by MLG in May.


Some of the greatest things in New Mexico are getting even greater.

ABQ International Balloon Fiesta officials say attendance at this year's edition--the 51st--drew more visitors--968,000--than any in Fiesta history. . . Officials at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe have unveiled an audacious $75 million expansion they call the "most expensive privately funded project by a cultural institution in New Mexico." They've already raised $60 million in donations from around the world.

And that's no trick or treat. Congrats to all involved.

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Monday, October 30, 2023

Bassan's Bumpy Campaign Trail: Ethics Complaint To Accuse Councilor Of Voter Fraud; Cites Alleged Fake Registration By Her Top Aide; Meanwhile She Admits "Mistake" In Claiming Bachelor's Degree, Plus: Machine Gun Manny And How ABQ Dodged A Bullet 

Councilor Bassan
Foes of ABQ GOP City Councilor Brook Bassan are amping up the pressure as the November 7 city election draws closer and coming with surprise hits on Bassan's character that could jar voters in the Councilor's NE Heights district.  

They are charging her with engaging in voter fraud and also misrepresenting her educational background. 

While favored to win re-election, the latest developments in the Bassan race could put a large chink in her armor and raises the possibility of a much closer race or even an upset, if enthusiasm for her is dampened among her supporters. 

A defeat would be devastating for the conservative wing of the nine member council and could tip policy more towards Mayor Keller who now often faces a 5 to 4 majority against him.

Let's get to it. . . 

As ethic violations go, the one being leveled against Bassan is anything but run-of-the-mill. This comes from the camp of Bassan's opponent, Democrat and attorney Abby Foster

An ethics complaint will be filed today with the City Board of Ethics alleging that Councilor Brook Bassan has engaged in voter fraud to support her re-election. Dave Esdale, a District 4 resident, will
Emilio registration

be filing the complaint. On April 25, 2023, Brook Bassan’s policy analyst Dawn Marie Emilio—a City  employee—changed her voter registration to show she resides at the home of Brook Bassan. . . Ms. Emillio’s voter registration card shows she is registered at 9000 Modesto Ave NE, the home of Councilor Bassan, but is maintaining a different mailing address for a home on the Westside, not in District 4. Her previous voter registration card from 2017 shows she was registered at an address on the Westside. 

After Ms. Emillio changed her voter registration in April, on June 6, 2023, city records show she signed Councilor Bassan’s nominating petition for her reelection campaign and contributed $5 towards her public financing effort. By signing the petition and contributing $5, Ms. Emillio swore she was a District 4 resident. It appears Ms. Emillio intends to use Bassan’s residence to allow her to vote in the upcoming city election as a resident of Council District 4. The ethics complaint to be filed will allege (Councilor Bassan) violated numerous city and state laws. 

Strange indeed. And serious. 

This latest blow-up comes only days after District 6 Council candidate Abel Otero suspended his campaign after being caught lying when he said he had served time in prison


Is Bassan aware of all this? I asked her for an explanation. She said our Saturday inquiry was the first she had heard of the accusations but did not respond when I asked for comment. 

However, we did get a statement from Dawn Marie Emilio who lashed out at the Foster camp and offered an explanation as to why she registered to vote in Bassan's district:

Joe, I heard you may be writing something. This is a sad and pathetic example of how low some will go to score political points. I have lived in District 4 on and off for years, even before working for City Councilor Brook Bassan. I previously worked for Councilor Brad Winter. Though it’s none of their business, Brook opened her home to me for personal reasons and I moved in for a significant period of time. It's a shame that someone opening their home to another when they are in need is being turned into false allegations and exploited for political purposes. I have since moved out of her home and will cast my ballot in this election from the district in which I currently reside, just as I have always done. 

The implication of Foster's allegation is that Bassan engaged in a conspiracy with her aide who serves at her will. 

There's little time before the election for the Ethics Board to schedule a full-blown hearing on the matter but Foster's camp and/or the outside groups still have time to mail the charges directly to voters. 

As for Dawn Marie voting on the westside when she is registered in District 4, same day voter registration would allow her to switch her registration back to where she is currently residing. 

Veteran good government advocate Peter St. Cyr says if there was "cheating" going on with voter registration in District 4 it "undermines citizen engagement in the electoral process while trust in government has already plunged to single digits." He says if there is truth to the allegation "Councilor Bassan needs to withdraw from the race." 


Abby Foster
Meanwhile, the Foster forces have more ammo for another mail hit and it again goes to Bassan's character. From the newspaper

 On her campaign website and the City of Albuquerque website, Bassan listed a bachelor’s in criminology; in a 2023 ABQ Journal questionnaire, she wrote she had an associate’s. Bassan has an associate’s and said she has since corrected both websites, calling the errors an “oversight.” She provided a record of the degree. Bassan also told the ABQ Journal in a 2019 candidate questionnaire she had a bachelor’s degree. . . “It was a mistake,” Bassan said. “Truly, I never ran on being a criminal psychologist, never ran on a criminal justice degree. It was truly a mistake. ... I apologize to everyone, because I certainly did not try to say a bachelor’s degree intentionally.”. . . Bassan said she attended UNM for one semester, but didn’t graduate. . .She graduated from ITT Technical Institute in 2007.

How many candidates over the decades have been busted by the seemingly innocent Journal questionnaire? Too many to remember but Bassan definitely joins the list for not just once but twice submitting an erroneous answer to the questionnaire. 

Foster's camp casts doubt on Bassan's claim that she simply made a mistake. They say they have a recording of a radio interview with Rock of Talk AM 1600 in which Bassan states she has a bachelor's degree. (We have not heard the interview.)

What's also surprising is that the Journal did not do a stand alone story on Bassan's "mistake" on their questionnaire as they often have in the past. Instead they lumped it in with a profile story on the council race. Missing your own scoop? 

Bassan has proven to be a popular moderate councilor but in this election year she has stiffened her opposition to Mayor Keller in her Republican leaning district. If the ethics charge has legs and Bassan must admit to a "mistake" or worse, her credibility could take a severe hit, even if re-elected.  


Chasing an upset, Foster piles more baggage on Bassan:

Bassan’s campaign is being managed by consultant Jay McCleskey, who ran former Sheriff Manny Gonzales’ unsuccessful campaign for Mayor in 2021. Bassan’s reelection campaign team includes the same individuals caught up in the voter forgery scandal that denied Gonzales hundreds of thousands of dollars in public financing.

And that makes for this natural segue. . . 


Keller and Gonzales
It was always unlikely but imagine if now former Bernalilo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales--aka  Machine Gun Manny--had defeated Mayor Keller in the 2021 election? Today the Mayor would have a possible indictment hanging over him charging him with trafficking in guns--one of the most pressing issues facing our violence challenged city:

Former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales and Undersheriff Rudy Mora are named — but not charged — in an alleged scheme to illegally acquire machine guns for firearms dealers and gun enthusiasts in Albuquerque and elsewhere.

The Feds say the sensational allegations occurred in 2020 while Gonzales was Sheriff. If they had been revealed with Gonzales as Mayor he would have been pressured to resign the Mayor's office and if he did it would have made current City Council President Pat Davis the Mayor by appointment.

How would a Davis mayoralty differ from Keller's? Well, we will never know and that's a good thing since it would have taken the election of Machine Gun Manny to set those wheels in motion. 

By the way in that three way '21 mayoral contest Keller defeated Gonzales 56% to 26% with 18 percent for Eddy Aragon. When Gonzales was re-elected Sheriff in 2018 he beat his GOP opponent 55 to 45. 

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