It is really a damn shame that so many candidates for Mayor have abandoned or decided against seeking public financing as this New Mexico Political Report article points out.
Originally, there were a total of 14 candidates running for Mayor, with 10 declaring their intent to seek public financing and 4 declaring to seek private financing.
That has changed with the majority of the candidates either abandoning their efforts to seek public financing or declaring their intent to seek private financing.
The City’s public financing is designed for failure.
Candidates for Mayor are given only 6 weeks to collect 3,800, qualifying $5.00 donations from Albuquerque residents and registered voters to secure public financing, which is a daunting and a very difficult task.
More than double the amount of time is given the candidates to secure the 3,000 qualifying signatures.
The $5 donations are donations made to the city and not to the candidate.
The $5 dollar donations are required to come from registered city voters, otherwise the donations do not count.
If the campaign fails to collect the minimum number of qualifying donations, all of what is collected is kept by the City.
The City Clerk’s office does not permit electronic transactions by donors, such as debit and credit cards, even though it was allowed by ordinance.
The City Clerk requires the campaigns to collect cash and use paper receipt books and it is labor intensive.
As candidates for Mayor have found out the hard way, unless you have a small army of volunteers, it not likely you can secure the required number of $5 donations.
The math is simple. You need to collect a minimum of between 80 and 100 $5.00 donations a day to get the 3,800 qualifying donations.
Voters normally have no problem signing nominating petitions but are reluctant to donate $5.00 to the city.
Current public finance laws provide that a qualifying candidate gets only one lump sum for the entire election, now at approximately $380,000.
Nothing in public finance is given for a run off placing public finance candidates at a disadvantage to privately financed candidates and incumbents.
Under Albuquerque’s existing public finance ordinance, once a candidate agrees to accept public financing, a candidate is prohibited from collecting any other donations and must agree to a spending limit.
What is discouraging is that the Albuquerque City Council had the opportunity last year to adopt dramatic changes to the city’s public campaign finance laws based on a task force review.
The City Council could have made the process easier to qualify for public financing but the only thing the City Council agreed to do is increase the funding from $360,000 to $640,000.
The increase in public finance funding will be on the October 3 municipal ballot and if passed will apply to future elections.
I remember talking to my City Councillor Diane Gibson about proposed changes to the public finance laws and making it easier to qualify and her comment was “It’s suppose to be hard to keep out candidates who are not serious candidates” as if she has any business deciding who should be considered a serious candidate.