Originally, there were 16 candidates who were running in the 4 City Council seats that will be on the November 5, 2019 ballot with 12 of those candidates seeking public financing. The qualifying periods to collect qualifying $5 donations and the 500 nominating petition signatures are now over.
All city council candidates were required to collect 500 qualifying petition signatures from registered voters. The number of $5.00 donations needed in each city council district to qualify for public financing differs based on voter registration. The breakdown is: in District 2: 413 donations, in District 4: 393 donations, in District 6: 323 donations and in District 8: 425 donations.
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COUNCIL
District 2 incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton has 5 opponents who qualified for the ballot seeking to replace him. The candidates are: Steve Baca (D), Joseph Griego (D), Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson (D), Zack Quintero, (D) and Connie Vigil, (R). David B. Bearshire failed to gather the necessary petition signatures. 6 of 7 candidates in District 2 originally sought public financing and 4 have qualified: Issac Benton, Joeseph Griego, Robert Raymond Blanquerq Nelson and Zachery A. Quintero.
District 4 has 4 candidates who qualified for the ballot and running to replace Brad Winter. Those candidates are: Brook L. Bassen, Athena Ann Christodoulou, Ane C. Romero, Hailey Josselyn Roy. Mary Sue Flynt did not qualify for the ballot. 4 candidates in District 4 sought public financing with 3 securing the necessary $5.00 qualifying donations and they are Brook L. Bassan, Ane C. Romero and Haley Josselyn Roy.
District 6, incumbent City Councilor Pat Davis has one challenger and she is Gina Naomi Dennis (D) who is an attorney, neighborhood activists and who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 to the Democratic National Convention. Both Davis and Dennis qualified for the ballot and secured public finance.
District 8 City Councilor Trudy Jones has one challenger and she is S. Maurreen Sakowin who qualified for public financing. Trudy Jones has elected to finance her campaign with private financing and has never sought public financing of her campaigns. Both Trudy Jones and S. Maurreen Sakowin collected the 500 petition signatures.
RANK VOTING SYSTEM REJECTED BY CITY COUNCIL
Currently, under Albuquerque’s election code, a candidate for city councilor must receive at least 50% plus 1 of the vote to win an election without a run off outright. If no candidate receives 50% plus one of the vote, the top two finishers face off in a separate runoff election and whoever gets the 50% majority vote wins the election. Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis, both running for reelection, and Republican City Councilor Brad Winter, who is not running for reelection, introduced and ordinance adopting a rank choice voting system for the upcoming November 5, 2019 election. Ranked-choice voting is also known as “instant runoff”. Rank choice voting is an alternative to the city’s existing runoff election system and it is used in Santa Fe municipal elections.
With rank choice voting, voters rank all candidates in a race by preference. If, after the initial tally, no candidate has at least 50% of the first-place votes, the threshold required to win a City Council races, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated and the ballots are counted again. The process continues until a single candidate emerges with a majority of votes, thus eliminating the need for a separate runoff election. In other words, the ultimate winner of the election is determined with a mathematical calculation of votes listed at once on a single ballot. An elimination process is used and it eliminates the need for a runoff election and all campaigning time and costs associated with a runoff.
On June 18, 2019, the Albuquerque City Council voted 4 to 5 not to have “rank choice voting” with Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Brad Winter and Diane Gibson voting YES and with Cynthia Borrego, Don Harris, Trudy Jones, Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez voting it NO. Notwithstanding the Council voting it down, a competing proposal is still pending to ask voters on the November 5, 2019 ballot question if they approve of moving to a ranked-choice system for 2021 and the ballot question will have at least one more hearing.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Rank choice voting or instant runoff gives incumbents and unfair advantage because of their name identification. Ranked choice voting is a dramatic overhaul of the city election process and for that reason it should be placed on the November 5, 2019 ballot for voters to decide if it should be used for future elections.
Now that all the candidates have secured their positions on the ballot, the races no doubt will heat up and voters can expect knocks on the door from candidates seeking their support. All too often, it is only during election time that voters see and hear personally from their City Councilors. Usually the only time voters see their City Councilors is in news reports or at press conferences to take credit for something they had little to do with.
Voters need to take advantage of the opportunity to ask the candidates where they stand on the issues that are critical to their districts. Hopefully voters will ask Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and Trudy Jones why they were such strong supporters of the disastrous ART Bus project and why they allowed the destruction of one of the finest police departments in the country by failing to exercise their oversight authority and calling into question the previous administration’s management of APD.
When it’s all said and done, voters must understand who they are voting for and if a candidate does indeed represent their best interests and not the candidates own personal agenda. One question that should be asked of the candidates is if they are committed to serving their full 4 year term and not run for higher office before serving the term which has happened most recently with elected officials.