There are eight (8) candidates running for Mayor of Albuquerque that have been qualified by the Albuquerque City Clerk and who will appear on the Tuesday, October 3, 2017 ballot:
1. Republican Ricardo Chaves, founder of Parking Company of America
2. Democrat Brian Colon, Former Democratic Party Chair and private attorney
3. Independent Michelle Garcia Holmes, retired APD Detective
4. Republican Wayne Johnson, Bernalillo County Commissioner
5. Democrat Timothy Keller, first term State Auditor
6. Republican Dan Lewis, Albuquerque City Councilor
7. Democrat Gus Pedrotty, UNM College Graduate and community activist
8. Democrat Susan Wheeler-Deichel, founder of civic group Urban ABQ
NOTE: Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta qualified to be on the ballot but on May 27, 2017 withdrew from the race and is no longer a candidate.
There are seventeen (17) candidates running for five (5) Albuquerque City Council seats who are still in the process of gathering signatures to qualify to get the ballot.
Following is a listing of the Albuquerque City Council candidates:
City Council District 1
1. Three term Incumbent Democratic City Councilor Ken Sanchez
2. Progressive Democrat Javier Benavidez, co-director of Southwest Organizing Project
3. Independent Sandra Mills, Albuquerque native and retired IBM employee
4. Independent Johnny F. Luevano, retired Marine Captain and Presbyterian Health plan employee
City Council District 3
1. First term Incumbent Democrat City Councilor Klarissa Pena
2. Christopher Sedillo, retired US Navy after 26 years
City Council District 5
1. Republican Robert Aragon, private attorney, NM Board of Finance member
2. Democrat Cynthia Borrego, retired City Planner
3. Republican Jose Orozco, owner of business management and consulting firm
4. Independent Catherine Trujillo, provider of workforce placement
5. Phillip Ramirez, party affiliation unknown, construction company project manager
6. Robert Watson (no information available)
City Council District 7
1. First term Democrat incumbent Diane Gibson, retired Sandia National Laboratories employee
2. Independent Timothy Carlton McQueen, December UNM graduate, legislative analyst
3. Republican Eric L. Lucero, retired New Mexico Army National Guard and Air Force
City Council District 9
1. Three term Republican Incumbent Don Harris, private attorney
2. Libertarian Paul Ryan McKenny, Air Force veteran, college student
3. Democrat Byron K. Powdrell, general manager of radio station and Albuquerque native
If no candidate gets 50% or more of the vote in the Mayor’s race or in any City Council race, a runoff will be held one month later between the two top vote getters.
Any successful candidate will need money to finance their campaigns both in the first election and then for the run-off if they make it to the run off.
No doubt those candidates in the runoff will seek and accept help from Measured Finance Committees.
It is anticipated that the Healthy Workforce initiative that requires the payment of sick leave by employers to their employees will be on the October 3, 2017 municipal ballot.
Increasing public financing for Mayor candidates from $380,000 to $640,000 will also be on the October 2, 2017 ballot for voter approval.
DEFINITION OF A MEASURE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Under the City of Albuquerque’s campaign finance laws, a Measure Finance Committee is a political action committee (PAC), person or group that supports or opposes a candidate or ballot measure within the City of Albuquerque.
All Measure Finance Committees must register with the Albuquerque City Clerk, regardless of the group’s registration as a political action committee (PAC) with another governmental entity, county, state or federal.
Measure finance committees must also file financial statements at the same time the candidates running for office report.
There has been only one (1) financial statement disclosure required thus far of the candidates with the next reports due in July.
Measure Finance Committees are required to register with the City Clerk within five (5) days once they have raised or spent more than $250 towards their purpose.
Registration includes receiving the mandatory training for the online campaign finance reporting database which is then made available to the public.
Measure Finance Committee representatives must also identify a chairperson and treasurer at the time of registration.
The Chairperson or Treasurer of the committee are the only individuals authorized to sign the registration forms required by the City Charter.
NO CONTRIBUTION OR EXPENDITURES LIMITS FOR MEASURE FINANCE
Measure finance committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits and business bans like candidates.
However, a Measure Finance Committee that receives aggregate contributions more than 30 percent of the Mayor’s salary from one individual or entity, must incorporate the donor’s name into the name of the committee.
For 2016 measure finance committees, that threshold number was $31,156.32 and will be likely be the same in 2017 because the Mayor’s salary has not changed.
No Measure Finance Committee is supposed to coordinate their activities with the individual candidates running for office, but this is a gray area as to what constitutes coordination of activities.
2017 MEASURED FIANCE COMMITTEES THUS FAR
To date, there are three Measure Finance Committees that have registered for the 2017 municipal election:
Purpose listed for Measure Finance Committee: “2017 Municipal Candidates & Public Safety”
Chairperson: Diego Rincon (President of local Firefighter’s Union)
Treasurer: John Roump
Alternate Contact: Kelly Silvis
2. ABQ Forward Together
On May 10, 2017, a “Measure Finance Committee Contact Sheet” was filed with the Albuquerque City Clerk for “ABQ Forward Together” listing as the Committee Chairman a person by the name of Macon Mc Crossen.
The City Clerks web site says that ABQ Forward Together has not registered on the city’s campaign finance system and that information will be updated and the link updated when registration is completed.
The big question is which Mayor or City Council candidate or what ballot initiative is ABQ Forward Together being set up for?
A HIDEOUS THREAT TO 2017 MUNICIPAL ELECTION
The fact that Measure Finance Committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits and business bans like candidates is what makes them a major threat to warping and influencing our municipal elections and the outcome.
Any Measure Finance Committee can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and can produce negative ads to destroy any candidate’s reputation and candidacy.
Governor Susana Martinez’s PAC headed up by Jay Mc Clusky is the best example of a PAC or Measure Finance Committee influencing an election when it went after former Majority Leader Senator Michael Sanchez in the 2016 state election with a series of negative and sensational ads and spent upwards of $1 million dollars to defeat Senator Michael Sanchez.
Jay Mc Clusky was also the campaign manager and political consultant for Mayor Richard Berry in both of his runs for Mayor and handling his media.
When you review Berry’s final financial reports for his 2013 re-election taken from the City Clerks web site it’s an eye opener regarding the extent of influence Jay Mc Cluskey and the Republican Party had over Richard Berry.
According to the City Clerks records, Berry raised $904,623.00 in cash and in-kind contributions of $5,176 for a total of $909,799 and of that Berry paid Mc Cleskey Media Stategies $590,811 and Jay Mc Cleskeys’ wife Nicole’s company Public Opinion Strategies $40,255.
Privately financed candidates and campaigns can also solicit and collect unlimited amounts of campaign donations throughout the election cycle including any run-off and can spend as much as they want with no spending limits.
For a supposedly nonpartisan race, Mayor Berry’s 2013 contributors list is top heavy with prominent Republican donors and players including the Republican National Committee, Brewer Oil Company, Western Refining Company, Pete Domenici, Harvey Yates, Micky Barnett, Ed Lujan, Bill Sego, Don Chalmbers, Jon Barela, John Sanchez, Margaret and Turner Branch, Nadine Bicknel, Larry Laranaga , Nate Gentry, Herb Hughes, Sherman McCorkle, Trudy Jones, Michael Brasher, John Ackerman, Bob Stamm, Jack Stahl, Gerry Geist, Justin Fox Young, and Doug Turner just to mention a few.
After his elections, Berry hired Republican operatives Darren White as Chief Public Safety Officer, Rob Perry as City Attorney and then Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Gordon Eden, City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, just to mention three.
It is a possibility that the Governor’s PAC will get involved with this year’s Mayor’s race to assist any one of the three Republican candidates for Mayor who are Dan Lewis, Wayne Johnson or Ricardo Chavez because of the political appointments that are at stake.
It is a possibility that the Governor’s PAC will get involved with this year’s City Council races, especially in City Council District 5 where Republican Robert Aragon, a private attorney and Governor appointed New Mexico Board of Finance member is running.
It was wishful thinking that there would be no Measure Finance Committees in our 2017 municipal election when two (2) have already been set up.
A coalition of 27 businesses and business organizations has also been formed to oppose the Healthy Work Force ordinance in court and at the ballot.
It is more likely than not that the anti-Healthy Workforce coalition will create a Measure Finance Committee, if they have not already, to raise money to oppose the ordinance as well as to promote those candidates for Mayor who oppose the Healthy Workforce ordinance.
Both Republican Dan Lewis and Republican Wayne Johnson oppose the Healthy Workforce ordinance and stand to benefit by their opposition and seek campaign donations from the business coalition opposing the mandatory sick leave ordinance.
SPENDING CAPS ON PUBLIC FINANCE CAMPAIGNS
A public finance candidate seeking help from a Measured Finance Committees reminds me of the scene in the Godfather where a grieving father goes to the Godfather on the day of his daughter’s wedding and asks for vengeance, and says “Be my friend, Godfather?”
The Godfather agrees to the favor only after his ring is kissed, but makes sure the grieving father knows he is indebted to him and that he may be called upon one day, and that day may never come, to do a service for him.
The federal courts have struck down the matching funds provision for run offs in the city’s campaign finance ordinance.
Notwithstanding, qualifying public financed candidates for Mayor and City Council are given a single lump sum of money from the city they can use to run their initial campaign and if they make it into a run off election, they are given a significantly reduced lump sum amount in public financing for the runoff election.
According to the Albuquerque City Charter for the first election, qualifying public financed candidates for Mayor are given $1.00 per registered voter in the city or approximately $360,000 and if the Mayoral candidate makes it into the runoff, they are given and additional 33 cents per registered voter or approximately $118,000 for the run off.
The city charter provides that for the first election, qualifying public fiance candidates for City Council are given $1.00 per registered voter in their City Council Districts or approximately $35,000 to $40,000, and if the city council candidate makes it into the runoff, they are given and additional 33 cents per registered voter in their district or approximately $12,000 to $14,000 for the run off election.
All public finance campaigns and public finance candidates have to agree to the spending caps in writing and are prohibited from soliciting and asking for donations.
Public finance candidates are at a distinct disadvantage to privately financed candidates and could easily get desperate for money and seek help from a Measure Finance Committees.
It is naive to think that any candidate for Mayor or City Council will refuse or denounce any help from a Measure Finance Committee set up to campaign for them and to help get them elected or help them in a runoff election.
Measure Finance Committees can do all the dirty work for a candidate just like the Governor’s PAC and Jay Mc Clusky did to defeat Senator Sanchez especially in any runoff when the public finance candidate has spent all the campaign money they had to get into the runoff.
It is more likely than not that candidates who are publicly financed will seek from behind the scenes and want the help of a Measure Finance Committee because of the cap on what the public finance candidate agreed to and can spend for the entire election cycle including any runoff.
It is disingenuous and deliberate “political fraud” to voters for any public finance candidate to secure taxpayer money first to run their campaigns, agree in writing to a spending cap, and then have their political operatives solicit or create a Measure Finance Committee to help them get elected and spend massive amounts of money to give them an unfair advantage in the first election and then the runoff.
What service will a Measured Finance Committee demand or expect from the candidate in exchange for their support?
Voters need to follow the money and demand to know where the outside money known as “dark money” is coming from for any Measure Finance Committee and find out exactly who is trying to influence the election for the candidates and who will be pulling the strings of their political puppet, like the Godfather, once elected.
Voters need to beware of the candidates and especially their political consultants who say to Measured Finance Committees “be my friend?”
The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court Decision Citizens United is destroying our democracy.
Political campaign fundraising and big money influence are warping our election process.
Money spent becomes equated with the final vote.
Money drives the message, affects voter turnout and ultimately the outcome.
All too often, good, decent and qualified candidates do not run because they cannot raise the money.
Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement, but I doubt we will ever get it in the age of Citizen’s United.