Keller-Lewis Runoff; Hold On To Your Seats For A Rough Ride

It was downright fun calling municipal election returns with Joe Monahan and the crew on KANW radio.

A 97,000 voter or a 29% turnout by far exceeded expectations!

I shocked the group when after seeing about a third of the results and I predicted Keller would get over 40% at the end while the panel all said his final vote would be 33%.

Within a few minutes, updated results had Keller with 41% and when he claimed victory on TV he had 40% with his final vote at 39%.

I am very pleased to see I still have the political instincts.

Now on to what I fear will be one of the nastiest and most negative runoffs seen in awhile.

Mr. Keller will be given $127,000 in public finance to run his campaign, while Mr. Lewis will be able to raise as much as he possibly can.

Mr. Keller’s measured finance committee will now go into overdrive to raise money

The race will be as much as chasing after money as is chasing after votes.

We can all expect negative ads and national money being poured into the race.

The municipal runoff election is scheduled for November 14, 2017.

What this means is that Mayor-elect Keller or Mayor-elect Lewis will have only two weeks for a transition team to get to work and come up with reports and make recommendations on what needs to be done.

I encourage Keller and Lewis to start trying to identify people who are professionals, not political operatives who worked on their campaigns, who can hit the ground running and become Department Directors.

The two biggest appointments will be who to appoint Chief Administrative Officer and Chief of Police who are acceptable to the City Council and who can get confirmed by the council.

We were in that station until midnight, but Joe worked to 2:00 am this morning to get his blog article out.

Hope everyone had a chance to listen to the program.

Joe did and exceptional job with his day after election commentary on his blog.

My blog is my hobby, while New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan is Joe’s living.

Joe did a much better job than I could have ever done on what happened, therefore I am posting it on my blog for all to see.

Following is Joe Monahan’s full blog post in full:

“Good For You, ABQ! Voter Turnout Soars; Nearly 100,000 Come Out As Apathy Takes A Bath; Keller Blows The Doors Off For 1st In Mayor Derby; Lewis Takes 2nd; Sick Leave Gets The Flu; Incumbent Councilors Safe

Wow! You don’t hear that often from jaded observers of La Politica but we heard it in spades Tuesday night as the vote rolled in. . . and kept rolling in until we neared the nearly awe inspiring total of 100,000 city voters.

Unofficial results showed just about 98,000 voted in the mayoral contest. That came very close to beating the record set in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks. And when we account for voters who went to the polls but did not vote in the mayoral race we may just beat the record.

That gladdened the hearts of those who have been fretting over a city that seemed to have accepted the historic crime wave, the ongoing economic stagnation and a political class that continually underestimated the city’s woes or simply denied them.

But voting, if anything, is an exercise is hope. And hope was the new Duke City fad Tuesday. You could only hope that unlike the miniskirt or Rubik’s cube, this fad was here to stay. It brought back fond memories of the city’s slogan during the go-go years of the 90’s–“Good for You, Albuquerque!”

But voting alone isn’t going to turn around a deeply troubled ABQ. It will take strong and determined mayoral leadership and Tuesday voters decided that it would be either Democrat Tim Keller or Republican Dan Lewis who is up to the task, but Keller more so and by a margin of landslide proportions.


Keller aced the pollsters and pundits and secured 38,156 votes or 39.35 percent, just a shade shy of the 40 percent mark that used to be good enough to avoid a run-off election. But the rules changed and now a candidate needs 50 percent so State Auditor Keller, 39, will now engage in what is expected to be a rough and tumble run-off election with City Councilor Lewis, 47, who placed second with 22,238.

That huge gap between the two was a point of focus for our team of experts on our KANW 89.1 FM broadcast as the returns arrived onto their computer screens. Said former city councilor, longtime political consultant and ABQ attorney Greg Payne:

“Dan had to be hoping for a single digit separation between himself and Tim. This gap of close to 16 points makes it much more difficult for him to prevail in the run-off on November 14th. He will need something special to happen, if Keller is to be denied.”

That “something special” will likely take the form of an all out attack against Keller by Lewis. He told our radio audience that Keller is soft on crime, accusing him of having a program that he derisively labeled “hug a thug.”

Keller, nursing a victory that everyone knew was coming but no one imagined would be as big as it turned out, was not taking the bait and chuckled at the blistering. But he did dig at Lewis by saying he wants the finger-pointing over the crime wave to stop and indirectly mocked Lewis for blaming the judges. He said politicians need “to own responsibility for our city.”

It will have to be Lewis who plays the most offense as he tries to jar the ball loose from Keller’s now firm grip. In a city where Dems heavily outnumber R’s Keller starts with a decided advantage. For his part Lewis worked those numbers, telling us he has never been “a partisan figure” as he began the job of convincing D’s to come to his aid.


Keller was now seen getting the public endorsement of former NM Dem Party Chairman Brian Colón who finished third with 15,844 or 16.38 percent of the vote. Colón spent over $800,000, by far the most of any of the eight mayoral candidates, only to see an engaged electorate seek the more forceful messages offered by Keller and Lewis.

While Colón can be expected to publicly raise his hand for Keller, it remained uncertain if the former chairman, a consummate deal maker, would play any footsie with Lewis who sorely needs Colón Democrats if he is to have a realistic shot.


The money race begins today along with the vote chase. Will the GOP and its associated groups shrug off the big margin between Keller and Lewis and still go all in with their contributions or will they hold back, fearing a Mayor Keller could call them to account?

And how will Keller’s effort be financed? He opted for public financing and only gets $125,000 for the run-off. Lewis can raise as much as he wants. What third party groups will come to Keller’s aid and will that create controversy? And will a third party financed campaign be as effective as Lewis’s who can run his own show?

Another question: We had nearly 100,000 cast ballots in the first round. But that is sure to drop in the second round. How will that play out?

While Lewis will hammer Keller on crime, lurking in the background is Lewis’s association with conservative church leader Reverend Smotherman as well as his endorsement from the National Rifle Association which suddenly looks much less valuable in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern US history this week in Las Vegas.


Former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones let out a “Yipee” when former BernCo GOP Chairman Rick Abraham announced at KANW that the turnout had closed in on the 100,000 mark. It was that kind of night for Dems, Republicans, Independents and anyone else who cares deeply about the future of our city. They all agree that only a spirited and passionate debate about the city’s future can pull us out of what some have likened to a death spiral.

So what was behind the unpredicted turnout surge?

Payne and I discussed it in detail and came up with these theories:

–Keller’s campaign had put unprecedented energy into the “ground game” mobilizing some 400 volunteers to get out his vote–and they did.
–The controversial sick leave ordinance, which was narrowly defeated, energized both foes and supporters when the final polling showed the outcome too close to call.
–Then there was Las Vegas. Did that horrific crime hit home in ABQ where everyday folks are fed up with the constant barrage of thefts and violence? It very well may have, posited longtime Democratic activist and former NM Court of Appeals Judge Ira Robinson.

Whatever the reasons, it was a welcome reprieve from the long decline in voter participation in city elections. With about 316,000 registered voters the turnout amounted to nearly 31 percent, but it was the raw total of nearly six figures that really brought out the grins.


Incumbent Dem Councilor Ken Sanchez on the westside and Republican Don Harris on the east side coasted to easy re-election victories, crossing the 50 percent threshold to avoid a run-off. Ditto for NE Heights Dem incumbent Diane Gibson. Her race also ended in a rout, sending her back to the council for another four years.

In District 5, the westside council seat Dan Lewis is giving up to run for mayor, an exciting run-off will be held between Republican Robert Aragon and Dem Cynthia Borrego who finished just a few points behind him. If Borrgeo pulls off the upset the council would go from a 5 to 4 Dem majority to a 6 to 3 Dem majority. That would be a veto-proof council, if the next mayor were a Dem.


The vote on the proposed ordinance to mandate sick leave for all city employees–both full-time and part-time–was narrowly defeated late Tuesday–50.39 to 49.61 percent.

Gerges Scott, who helped run the campaign against the measure from his perch at DW Turner PR, credited Dems who crossed over to vote against the ordinance.

Supporters of the proposal–financed mainly by out-of-town interests–spent well over $500,000 on the effort to pass it while the opponents never came close to that total. But the ordinance was so badly worded that even leading Dem supporters said they would work to change it if it passed. That kind of messaging sure didn’t help.


A hearty thanks to my radio team, one of the best we’ve had in nearly 30 years of calling elections for public radio. We finished about midnight, late for a city election as we waited for the final sick leave count. I am writing to you at 2 a.m. and want to sign off by also thanking you for your continued interest and support. It makes it a whole lot of fun. Now let’s get ready for that run-off election.”

New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.