EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog article is the second of two related articles on the 2021 Mayor’s race. The article lists potential candidates, Keller’s re-election efforts, fundraising activities and a predicted winning strategy. The link to the first blog article entitled “Mayor Tim Keller’s Record Of Broken Promises, Failures And High Murder Rates As He Seeks A Second Term” is here:
On January 1, 2021, like it or not, the Albuquerque municipal election season began. On November 2, 2021, the elections for Albuquerque Mayor and City Council will be held. Candidates for Mayor usually make announcements in January or February. It was on election night November 5, 2019 that Mayor Tim Keller made it known in election coverage radio interview he is seeking a second 4-year term as Mayor.
ANEMIC OPPOSITION AKIN TO NO OPPOSITION
There are names being mentioned and emerging as potential candidates to run against Mayor Tim Keller. There are some very serious candidates, others not so serious, but no one is considered viable enough by city hall observers to upset Keller’s incumbency, continuous public relations activities, his fund-raising prowess and his “likeability”. There is also a chance that Keller may even run unopposed.
Notwithstanding, those who are being mentioned as running for Mayor against Keller include:
1. Democrat Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales
Gonzales is saying privately that he is running against Keller on a “law and order” platform to reduce violent crime. Initially, Gonzales was considered a threat to Keller. Not anymore. Sherriff Gonzales has effectively self-destructed with his opposition to lapel cameras, conflicts with the District Attorney’s office over mandated disclosures of deputy misconduct and his announcement that he feels the Governor’s Health care orders are “unconstitutional”. Gonzales said on FOX News the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office will not enforce the health orders. The Sheriff’s viability took a serious hit when he started spreading the lie that the Governor’s Health Care orders are unconstitutional. Sheriff Gonzales’ cozying up to President Trump last summer did not help him much either. Democrat Gonzales was viewed as endorsing Trump for a second term when he traveled to Washington, DC in the summer. Gonzales first said he was going to met with Trump, but the truth was he went to attend a White House photo-op billed as a press conference.
2. Democrat City Councilor Pat Davis
Davis has told more than one source he wants to run for Mayor and be the city’s first openly gay Mayor akin to former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend Indiana. Davis actively began discussing running against Keller when the two competed for Albuquerque Journal front page coverage to take credit to use social workers to handle low level APD calls for service. Davis claims to be “a reformed” former police officer who left law enforcement because he had “done things he was not proud of” as a cop. What Davis ostensibly was not proud of turned out to be that Davis as a Washington, DC Cop shot an African American twice during a traffic stop. Davis was also employed as a UNM campus cop and involved with 4 separate civil rights cases for unconstitutional search and seizure that essentially trashed homes without finding any evidence of marijuana they were looking for. One lawsuit cost upwards of $20,000 to settle for property damage when Davis stormed a private residence accompanied by 20 sworn police officers including APD. Two college students lived at the private residence and an iron gate and front door were smashed in and 3 “flash grenades” were fired into the home. No one was at home the time, no drugs were found and no one was charged with a crime. Davis was never disciplined for the shooting in DC nor the unlawful searches in New Mexico. Davis proclaims he is a “former conservative” who is now a “progressive democrat” that advocates for police reforms. Progress Now, the progressive organization that Davis was Executive Director of at one time called upon Davis to resign from city council because of his past police misconduct. Davis is also said to be looking at running for congress again to replace Secretary of Interior designate Debra Haaland. Sources say Davis has called members of the Democratic Party State Central Committee who will be meeting to select a nominee but he is finding out his has little support.
3. 2020 Republican US Senate candidate Mark Ronchette
On Monday night, January 11, Mark Ronchetti returned to doing his nightly weather cast for KRQE-TV, Channel 13. That may be the case, but once addicted to politics, a relapse is always a possibility and there is still talk of him running for Governor in 2022. He could easily run for Mayor. Ronchetti campaigned saying “I stand with President Trump” and claimed he represents New Mexico values. The only thing Ronchette really knows about New Mexico is that it looks like a very big square on a green screen map where weather temperatures are easily arranged, with names of cities he probably does not know the English translation (ie Portales, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Ojo Caliente, Los Ranchos, Las Trampas, Questa). Notwithstanding, Ronchette made a respectable showing for U. S. Senate and his strong Republican base of support and likeability by his viewers in Albuquerque would make him formidable in a nonpartisan race such as Mayor. He would be formidable at least until he opens his mouth and shows his ignorance about city policy and city issues and not just the fact that Albuquerque has 310 days of sunshine a year.
4. Republican and former City Councilor Dan Lewis
Lewis lost to Keller 3 years ago in a landslide runoff. Lewis is giving mixed signals if he wants to run again for his old city council seat or run for Mayor. Lewis relied on private finance to run for Mayor 4 years ago. Review of all the campaign finance reports filed with the City Clerk reveals that Republican Dan Lewis raised more than $847,000 in private cash contributions for his 2017 run for Mayor and raised more than $22,000 in “in-kind” contributions for the elections for a total of $869,000, which is an impressive amount of money by any measure for a municipal election. Lewis attempted a social media campaign and he attacked the courts as being “soft on crime” and releasing too many violent criminals calling the criminal justice system a “revolving door”. Lewis threatened to plaster judges faces on bill boards to hold them accountable for their rulings. Lewis forgot he had been a City Councilor for 8 years, did nothing to help the criminal justice system and he did not understand a Mayor has no authority over judges. Lewis did know that attacking judges was like shooting fish in a barrel and Judges could not defend themselves, but he just had to go there knowing it would gin up his conservative base. Interesting that he declined to support Trump.
5. Republican and conservative radio talk show host for the “Rock The Talk” Eddy Aragon
Aragon also ran for Mayor four years ago but failed to get on the ballot and collect the $5.00 qualifying donations for public finance because of a last-minute entry. Just recently, Aragon ran against State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pierce for Republican Party chairman proclaiming the party needed a new generation of leader. Aragon is an extreme, right wing conservative and staunch supporter of President Trump. Aragon is known for his sharp tongue approach on his radio programs that alienates both friends and foes alike. Aragon has essentially bought into the Sean Hannity approach to promoting right wing conservatism. Aragon has been extremely critical of Mayor Tim Keller and Keller’s progressive agenda at the city, and that is likely to get worse even if Aragon does not run.
6. Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes
Garcia Homes is a retired APD officer and Democrat Attorney General Gary King’s spokesperson, a 2017 candidate for Mayor, the 2018 Republican candidate for Lt. Governor and the 2020 Republican Candidate for Congress and staunch Trump supporter even after the January 6 insurrection and takeover of the United States Capital. Garcia Homes is now posting on FACEBOOK that it was not Trump supporters who stormed the capitol but “antifa” dressed up pretending to be Trump supporters. Sources are saying she is up for another run at congress, she has indicated it as so on her FACEBOOK page, but her defeat by Debra Haaland will be difficult to ignore by the Republican party and she would be better off running for Mayor in some small southern town in New Mexico and not a Democratic City such as Albuquerque. She is beginning to get the reputation of running for office whenever an election rolls around and she is now becoming the lonesome Dave Cargo of her generation. Her staunch and unwavering support of Donald Trump, especially after the January 6 insurrection, has no doubt alienated more than a few.
7. Republican Darren White
Believe it or not, Darren White’s name is beginning to be thrown around as a possible candidate for Mayor. White is a former State Department of Public Safety Chief, 2 -term Bernalillo County sheriff, a former City of Albuquerque Chief Public Safety Officer and one of the directors for Purlife, a medical marijuana dispensary company. White ran for Congress and was defeated by Martin Heinrich some years ago. White is also a conservative radio talk show host with a daily week day afternoon program on KKOB. White is no stranger to controversy having resigned as Chief Public Safety Officer after an attempt to interfere with his wife’s arrest for DWI. White was also hired as the Construction Manager for the new Downs Casino. White raised more than a few eyebrows recently condemning Republican State Party Chairman Steve Pearce and Republican Congresswoman Yvette Harrell for their refusal to condemn President Trump’s speech on January 6 to his supporters to storm the United States capitol. White went out of his way to say that he was a Republican Conservative long before Donald Trump ever was. That would be one of the very few truths White has ever said given that he has the signature of Ronald Reagan as a tattoo on his ankle that he is very proud of and is known to show off to others. Confidential sources are saying longtime Republican political operative and consultant Jay McClusky, who is a very close friend to Darren White, is slithering around looking for work and pining for the good old days where he made millions off of Republican candidates Governor Susana Martinez and Mayor Richard Berry. McClusky convincing White to run would give them both the opportunity to return to their old glory days of political opportunism at its worse.
8. Republican freshman City Councilor Brook Bassan
City Councilor Bassan is emerging as a major critic of Mayor Keller on the City Council and making some sense at times. Bassan still has very limited understanding of city government and how it works after serving only two years, but would likely attract strong Republican support both in organization and funding.
9. Former APD Chief Michael Geier(Party affiliation unknown)
Keller gave Geier a choice between getting fired or retiring. Within days, Geier made the rounds to all local news agencies and gave exclusive interviews to unload on Keller giving rise to extensive speculation he was setting himself up to run for Mayor. If Geier does in fact run, he would be viewed as a “grudge” candidate or a spoiler candidate just to make Keller uncomfortable or look bad.
10. Steve Maestas (Party affiliation unknown)
Steve Maestas is a respected and successful real estate developer and principal of Maestas & Ward. He has never run nor held public office before and is unknown to the general public. Sources are saying is he is willing and wealthy enough to self-finance, but saying it and doing it are always two totally different things.
ORGANIZING FOR MOBILIZING
City hall sources are reporting that Mayor Tim Keller has been aggressively organizing his 2021 campaign for the last 6 months. Keller has sought early endorsements from City Councilors who will be on the ballot with him and other elected officials as well. He is also asking for help in collecting the necessary nominating petition signatures and the necessary $5.00 donations to qualify for $660,000 in public finance. The amount of public finance has doubled from 4 years ago thanks to the changes in the public finance laws made by the City Council last year. Keller will also be relying on his city volunteer group of upwards of 3,000 that resembles more of a fan club that he organized soon after getting elected 3 years ago.
On August 8, 2018, it was reported that Keller hired his longtime political consultant and 2017 Mayor campaign consultant Alan Packman to work for the City in the Department of Innovation and Technology (IT). The IT Department oversees the 311 citizens call center. As of August 27, 2020, Mr. Packman is paid $80,329 a year. Mr. Packman reports directly to Keller. The 311-call center is the “eyes and ears” of city government working directly with the general public. It’s likely Packman has been working on Keller’s campaign for reelection in the off hours ( wink, wink) at least that is what is mandated by personnel rules and regulations. Only Keller and Packman really know for certain what projects Packman works on and what events Packman attends with Keller.
KELLER’S HIGH APPROVAL RATING HOLDS STEADY
Three years ago, Keller was elected with 62% of the vote. On September 12, 2020 it was reported that an Albuquerque Journal poll taken revealed that 60% of likely city voters approve of Keller’s job performance. According to the poll Keller’s disapproval rating was a mere 22%. Another 16% said they had mixed feelings, while 3% didn’t know or wouldn’t say how they felt. The results are essentially identical to a 2018 Journal Poll that found Keller had a 61% approval rating after his first 9 months in office.
In the September 12 Journal article reporting on the poll, Brian Sanderoff, the President of Research & Polling, said it was unknown whether Keller’s approval rating dropped at any point in the previous 2 years and then climbed back up. Sanderoff said the public perception of Keller has improved during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that may be partly because the virus has temporarily supplanted crime as voters’ top concern.
The link to the full Albuquerque Journal article is here:
Mayor Tim Keller’s public relations efforts with the pandemic have in fact paid off for his bid for a second term. He has been able to maintain or perhaps return to a high approval rating essentially identical the percentage of the vote he received when he ran for Mayor in 2017 portraying himself in a positive manner devoid of any controversial stories.
MAYOR TIM KELLER BECOMES THE CRISIS MANAGEMENT MAYOR
On Wednesday, March 18, less than 48 hours after the Albuquerque City Council passed and amended “Emergency Powers Ordinance”, Mayor Tim Keller declared a “public health emergency” to deal with the corona virus epidemic in the city. Keller announced and signed the “Declaration of Local State of Emergency Due to Novel Corona Virus COVID-19”. With his Public Health Emergency declaration, Mayor Tim Keller became the first Mayor in the city’s history to become a “crisis management Mayor” to deal with a major health crisis and epidemic.
Keller substantially increased his already high public relations efforts once the corona virus hit hard in February of 2020. Keller held daily news conferences as if competing with Governor Lujan Gresham’s daily press conferences. Keller was very cautious not to be too aggressive with the Governor’s health care orders preferring to “educate” the public as opposed to “citing and fining” people and businesses for violation of the orders.
“AND YOU GET A GOVERNMENT CHECK, AND YOU GET A GOVERNMENT CHECK!”
The city was successful in securing $10 million Small Business Economic Relief Grant Program from the federal government which was used to set up grants of $10,000. On November 14, in the first of several rounds, Keller personally handed out $10,000 grant checks to nearly 100 local business owners. The grants are indeed critical support for the local economy at a time when spiking cases are forcing shutdowns and closures again. The 97 grants, totaling $970,000 in economic relief to local small businesses and locally owned franchisees, were funded by a $10 million Small Business Economic Relief Grant Program. The city awarded one-time grants of up to $10,000 to businesses with less than 50 full-time employees who have been impacted by the current public health emergency.
Never being one to miss a public relations or photo opportunity, Keller set up a “drive by” process where the business owners could drive up to Keller in their cars to social distance so Keller he could personally hand out the checks to them. Despite the pandemic, the United States postal services did a remarkable job with absentee voting, as do the banks “direct deposit and withdrawal” programs, but hand delivery of a check by Keller made a better photo op and for a FACEBOOK video. .
A link to Keller discussing and the city handing out the checks is here:
TOWN HALL MEETINGS
Keller has taken his corona virus public relations campaign to an even higher level than handing out government checks by holding regular telephone “town hall meetings”. Keller’s “town hall” meetings are especially effective for his public relations given the sure magnitude of the calls made and the number of times the townhall meetings have been conducted. The townhall meetings consist of calling upwards of 13,000 people at one time.
Confidential sources have confirmed Keller’s political consultant Alan Packman came up with the idea of telephone townhall meetings. Packman has acted as the moderator or announcer of the telephone town hall meetings and he screen’s all incoming calls and questions for Mayor Keller to answer. Further, Department Directors and other City employee participate in the town hall meetings to help respond to questions and discuss city efforts to deal with the pandemic
The town hall meeting calls are being made to those who have already called 311 where a work invoice has been generated and that 311 city resources are used to compile call lists. When “town hall” phone meetings are to be held, initial calls are made with a recording of Keller announcing the date and time of the town hall meeting. The phone call conference calls last up to a full hour.
The town hall meetings appear innocent and appropriate. The problem is Keller has already announced he running for a second term, which means the use of city resources to campaign would be inappropriate and unethical. Further people who have call 311 with a problem and needing help do not realize they are giving their private phone numbers to be used for what are essentially unwanted “robo calls”. Like it or not, the appearance of impropriety exists that Keller is using city resources to promote himself as he runs for a second term. The actual need for the town hall meetings is highly questionable given the numerous press conferences Keller holds not to mention the efforts of Governor Lujan Grisham.
KELLER’S $1.3 MILLION DOLLAR CAMPAIGN FOR MAYOR WILL REPEAT ITSELF
Keller will likely qualify for the $660,000 in public finance as he did 4 years ago by collecting 3,000 qualifying $5 donations made to the city by registered voters. Measured finance committees will also likely raise another $800,000 as they did for Keller 3 years ago.
During the 2017 race for Mayor, Keller was the only candidate out of 8 candidates that was able to secure public financing. In 2017, Keller was given $342,952 by the City in public finance in exchange for agreeing not to spend or raise and spend anymore. Keller made a big deal out of going the public finance rout to run for Mayor saying he was opposed to dark money and always for and collecting large donations for campaigns thereby being indebted to donors. Keller bragged that by accepting public finance he was “walking the talk.” The truth was, Keller’s public finance campaign was seriously underwritten by at least 3 “measured finance committees” that raised thousand of dollars to promote Keller for Mayor.
“ABQ Forward Together” was the progressive measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote progressive Tim Keller for Mayor. The measured finance committee chairperson was a former campaign manager of Tim Keller’s when he successfully ran for State Senate. “ABQ Forward Together” raised over $663,000 for Keller’s 2017 bid for Mayor. The amount included cash donations or in-kind donations from the Working Families Party, Ole and the Center for Civic Action.
During the 2017 Mayor’s race, Keller received significant support in one form or another from the progressive organizations of OLÉ of New Mexico, the New Mexico Working Families Party, and Progress Now New Mexico. All 3 organizations or their membership in one form or another became very involved with the 2017 Albuquerque Mayor’s race.
When it was all said and done, a total of $1,358,254 was actually spent on Tim Keller’s 2017 successful campaign for Mayor. According to City Campaign finance reports, Keller was given $506,254 public finance money, $663,000 was raised by the measured finance committee ABQ Forward for Keller, $67,000 was spent by ABQFIREPAC on Keller’s behalf and $122,000 was spent ABQ Working Families for Keller for a total of $1,358,254.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
When then State Auditor, Tim Keller was running for Mayor in 2017, he was swept into office riding on a wave of popularity he orchestrated as State Auditor for a mere 1 year and six months of his 4-year term in office. He proclaimed he combated “waste, fraud and abuse” in government and promising “transparency”. Keller no doubt crafted his “white knight” image as NM State Auditor with the help of his longtime political consultant Alan Packman. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State, in 2016 Keller paid Packman at least $37,962 for “consulting services” out of his State Treasurer Campaign account. Packman is now working for the city’s 311 call center and paid over $80,000 a year.
In 2017, it was a very high voter turnout of progressive democrats that swept Keller into office. It is not at all likely Keller has lost any degree of support within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Democrat progressive supporters get very aggressive in Keller’s defense whenever anything is said that is even remotely negative of his job performance. Mayor Tim Keller could drive an ART Bus down the middle of Central Avenue and runover someone and he wouldn’t lose a progressive vote.
Keller looks great on paper, he is young, charismatic, has a beautiful young family and he is “likeable” with a smile on his face and a grin in his voice at all times. More importantly, to an ever-increasing Democrat city, Keller is a “progressive democrat.” Truth was and still is, Tim Keller is still too good to be true given that he has accomplished very little as Mayor in keeping his campaign promises and his public image makes mediocrity look really good.
During the last 3 years under Mayor Tim Keller’s leadership, things have only gotten worse in the city. The sweeping and dynamic change that Keller was perceived to represent in 2017 never materialized. APD continues to implode, violent crime is still out of control, and with the pandemic, the state and city is likely headed for another major recession. In normal times, Tim Keller would be a one term Mayor given his record of broken promises and failures.
Normally, voters are a very fickle lot and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. But not in the age of the Corona Virus. Campaign promises made in 2017 and promises not kept by 2021 really do not matter from a political standpoint. A link to the blog article entitled “Mayor Tim Keller’s Record Of Broken Promises, Failures And High Murder Rates As He Seeks A Second Term” is here:
In times of crisis for a community, a community usually tends to fall behind and supports its elected officials. It called “rally behind the flag” phenomenon. It is very easy to see how Mayor Keller’s handling and managing the city during the corona virus pandemic will have a major impact on sustaining his popularity as he seeks a second term.
A campaign with the slogan “Give me more time and another chance to do good on my promises” is not a winning strategy, especially after what Keller promised when he was running the first time and what is happening now with the pandemic and crime in the city. What is a winning strategy is saying “I have led you through rough times and have earned another term!”. Keller will likely proclaim he needs a second term because he could not fulfill his promises all because to the pandemic. He will say we are all “One Albuquerque” or “One Burque”, depending on the group of voters his is pandering to at the time.
The Corona virus pandemic has replaced crime and APD reform as the biggest issue facing the city. Voters will be deciding come November 2, 2021 if Mayor Keller has done a good job in managing and handling the delivery of city services in the middle of a pandemic. None of Keller’s failures nor broken promises will likely make much of a difference to the voting public given Keller’s high approval rating, the image he has carefully crafted with his relentless public relations and the lack of any viable candidates willing to oppose him.
People do want to see and do need to have viable alternatives before they are even willing to just consider making any kind of change. Mayor Tim Keller will likely be elected to a second term primarily for the lack of any viable opposition, the inability of anyone being able to raise at least $1.3 million, people’s short memories, inclination to forgive and forget or no longer caring and as violent crime chaos swirls around the city.