The 2021 Albuquerque Municipal election for Mayor and City Council is about to officially start. March 1 is the first day candidates can declare to seek public finance beginning an 8-month election process.
Election day is Tuesday, November 2, 2021.
This blog article is a review of the requirements to get on the ballot, the requirements for public finance, a discussion of the jobs at stake as well as the roll “measured finance” committees will play in the election.
The municipal election is a “nonpartisan” race, meaning no one on the ballot will have a party affiliation listed. The New Mexico Constitution provides that all municipal elections be nonpartisan which is why the Albuquerque City Charter requires it and not because the framers of our charter thought it was a great idea. Notwithstanding, the Democrat and Republican parties are known to get very involved in one form or another either with volunteers, donations or both.
On the ballot this year will be the office for Mayor and the 5 odd numbered city council districts of the 9 city council seats. The council seats up for election are City Council seats 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9.
Although the municipal election is scheduled for November 2, 2021, there is a possibility that a runoff election will have to be scheduled within 30 days. Under the city’s election laws, a candidate in a slate of candidates must secure 50% plus one of the votes in order to avoid a runoff. If no candidate in a field of 3 or more candidates secures the required 50% plus one vote, a runoff is held between the 2 top vote getters.
MAYOR TIM KELLER
Democrat Mayor Tim Keller has already made it known he is running for a second 4-year term but will probably schedule a formal announcement soon. Sources are saying the only potential opposition to Keller at this point is Democrat Bernalillo County Sherriff Manny Gonzales. It’s more likely than not the Republican party will recruit someone to run for Mayor.
TO THE VICTOR GOES THE SPOILS
The Mayor is paid $125,000 a year, but also at stake are 26 Department Directors who are at will employees and who serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and who are often paid much more than the Mayor. To emphasize the magnitude of the jobs that are at stake, following is a listing Mayor Keller’s top paid executives and their salaries. All are at-will employees who would be subject to removal if Keller does not win a second term and the new Mayor decides to fire them and replace them:
MAYOR’S APPOINTED EXECUTIVE STAFF SUBJECT TO ELECTION OUTCOME
The Mayor’s top appointed executive staff and pay include:
Nair, Sarita CA-Chief Administrative Office Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) $186,747.20
Rael, Lawrence D CA-Chief Administrative Office Chief Operations Officer (COO) $181,953.60
Bhakta, Sanjay FA-Finance Admin Svc Chief Financial Officer (CFO) $143,008.80
CITY DEPARTMENT DIRECTORS, DEPUTIES AND ASSISTANTS
Department Directors are appointed by the Mayor and are unclassified positions with starting salaries of approximately $116,000. The Mayor’s department directors and what they are paid are as follows:
Medina, Harold Chief Of Police $183,378.60 (Salary paid to Chief Geier before Keller fired)
Gonzalez, Arturo E Deputy Chief $140,498.63
Garcia, Eric J Deputy Chief $140,144.28
Dow, Paul Fire Chief $148,128.08
Aguilar Jr, Esteban A LG-Legal City Attorney $144,386.41
Mowery, David E Deputy Fire Chief $130,892.98
Frazier, Sean R Deputy Fire Chief 128,686.88
Nevarez, Danny S AW-Animal Welfare Director $139,886.00 (FORMER)
Osterloh, Brian A TI-Technology and Innovation Director $133,923.20
Simon, David J PR-Parks and Recreation Director $129,156.00
Leech, Mark T Technology and Innovation Deputy Director/DTI $128,884.60
Di Menna, Mark A EH-Environmental Health Deputy Director/EHSE $124,694.40
Montoya, Charles P MD-Municipal Development Director $124,088.00
Pierce, Carol M FC-Family Community Svcs Director $124,088.00
Chapman, Paul Ray TI-Technology and Innovation Assoc Chief Info Officer $123,073.60
Martinez, Jennifer Renee FA-Finance Admin Svc Director $122,414.40
Scott, Mary L HR-Human Resources Director $119,344.86
Van Etten de Sanchez, Mary CS-Cultural Services Director $119,020.00
Fleming, Baird E Cultural Services Bio Park Administrator $118,771.23 (FORMER)
Fanelli, Pamela S FA-Finance Admin Svc City Controller $118,771.22
Allen, Nyika AV-Aviation Director $117,648.01
Jaramillo, Synthia R ED-Economic Development Director $117,648.00
Sanchez, Anna M SA-Senior Affairs Director $117,648.00
Whelan, Matthew SW-Solid Waste Director $117,648.00
Duhigg, Katy M CC-Office of the City Clerk City Clerk $116,122.80 (FORMER)
Mitchell, Kenneth D Parks and Recreation Deputy Director-Parks & Rec $113,940.40
Williams, Brennon N PL-Planning Department Director $113,180.80
Lozoya, Melissa R. Municipal Development Assoc Director $113,169.64
Smith, Dean P CS-Cultural Services Assoc Director Library 113,211.20
Sourisseau, Kevin J Municipal Development, Deputy Director 112,041.60
Thompson, James Internal Audit City Auditor 111,195.20 (FORMER)
Truong, Loc T, Human Resources Deputy Director/HR 108,632.24
FIVE CITY COUNCIL POSITIONS
Albuquerque City Councilors are paid $30,600 annually and the Council President earns $32,600 annually. They are also eligible to join the Public Employees Retirement Association and earn a pension after they have served 5 full years. Health Insurance is also made available to them.
The City Council incumbents are as follows:
District 1, City Councilor Lan Sena (Democrat) : She represents Albuquerque’s Central West Side. She was appointed to the City Council in March 2020, by Mayor Tim Keller. Sources are saying she is running for a full term.
District 3, City Councilor Klarissa Peña (Democrat): She represents the southwest part of Albuquerque. She was elected to the City Council in October, 2013. Sources are saying she is running for another 4-year term.
District 5 City Councilor Cynthia D. Borrego (Democrat): She represents the Northwest part of Albuquerque. She was elected to City Council in November 2017. Councilor Borrego is the current President of the City Council and sources are saying she is running for a second 4-year term.
District 7 City Councilor Diane Gibson (Democrat): She represents Albuquerque’s mid-heights including uptown and parts of the near northeast heights. She was elected to the City Council in October 2013. Councilor Gibson is the Vice President of the City Council and sources are saying she is not running for a second term but that could change in no one emerges to run against her.
District 9 City Councilor Don Harris (Republican): He represents the far Southeast Heights and Foothills. He was first elected to the City Council in 2005. Sources are saying Councilor Harris is running for another 4-year term.
2021 CANDIDATE GUIDE
The City of Albuquerque “2021 CANDIDATE GUIDE” provides a detailed candidate calendar of deadlines on pages 6 to 12 of the guide. The Candidate Guide provides the dates and requirements for the filing of campaign finance reports.
The link to the Candidate Guide is here:
DISCLAIMER: This blog article should is not a complete outline of all the mandatory requirements for the 2021 municipal election. Any candidate for municipal office should rely on the candidate guide as the definitive requirements and deadlines
PETITION SIGNATURES AND TIME LINES FOR PUBLIC FINANCE CANDIDATES
According to the City Charter and election code ordinances, candidates for Mayor and City council must gather nominating petition signatures from registered voters who live within the city limits.
MAYOR NOMINATING SIGNATURE PERIOD AND REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC FINANCED CANDIDATES
From April 17 to June 19, 2021, candidates for Mayor must gather 3,000 signatures from registered voters within the City. Each name and signature on the nominating petition is reviewed and compared to the voter registration rolls and if the person who has signed the petition name is not on the voter registration rolls, it is disqualified. Therefore far more than 3,000 signatures are needed to take into account disqualified signatures. Consequently, as many signatures above the 3,000 requirement is recommended for a “buffer” in order to ensure the minimum number of nominating signatures are secured.
CITY COUNCIL NOMINATING SIGNATURE PERIOD AND REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC FINANCE CANDIDATES
From May 31 to July 5, 2021, candidates for City Council must gather 500 qualifying signatures from registered voters within the district the candidate wishes to represent. Each name and signature on the nominating petition is reviewed and compared to the voter registration rolls and if the person who has signed the petition name is not on the voter registration rolls, it is disqualified. Consequently, as many signatures above the 500 requirement is recommended for a “buffer” in order to ensure the minimum number of nominating signatures are secured.
EDITORS NOTE: The petition signature timelines for Mayoral Candidates and Council Candidates highlighted above are for publicly financed candidates.
PRIVATELY FINANCED CANDIDATES SIGNATURE COLLECTON PERIODS
Privately financed candidates also have to collect petition signatures, however they do this much later in the election cycle.
Privately Finance Candidates for Mayor must gather more than 3,000 signatures from registered voters within the City and can only gather signatures from June 8 to August 10, 2021. Each name and signature on the nominating petition is reviewed and compared to the voter registration rolls and if the person who has signed the petition name is not on the voter registration rolls, it is disqualified. Therefore far more than 3,000 signatures are needed to take into account disqualified signatures.
Privately Financed Candidates for City Council must gather more than 500 signatures from registered voters within the district the candidate wishes to represent and can only gather signatures from July 6 to August 10, 2021. Each name and signature on the nominating petition is reviewed and compared to the voter registration rolls and if the person who has signed the petition name is not on the voter registration rolls, it is disqualified. Therefore far more than 500 signatures are needed to take into account disqualified signatures.
You can find these timeframes here:
PUBLIC FINANCING AVAILABILITY AND GUIDLINES
March 1 is the first day for Mayoral Candidates to submit Declaration of Intent to Seek Public financing. Council Candidates may file their intent to seek public financing at any point after until the Qualifying Period has closed.
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 runoff election, they are given a significantly reduced lump sum amount in public financing for the runoff election.
According to the city’s public finance laws, public finance candidates are given $1.75 cents per voter for regular elections and from 60 cents for runoff elections. In the 2021 municipal election, candidate for Mayor who qualify for public finance will be given $661,309.25. If the Mayoral candidate makes it into the runoff, they are given an additional 60 cents per registered voter.
The qualifying public finance candidates for City Council are also given the same amounts per registered voter in their City Council Districts or approximately $41,000 to $51,000, depending on register voter counts. If the city council candidate makes it into the runoff, they are given an additional 60 cents per registered voter in their district.
Candidates for Mayor and City Council are given 2 months to collect nominating petition signatures from registered voters.
Under the city’s public financing laws, candidates for Mayor are only given 8 weeks to collect the 3,779 qualifying donations of $5.00 which is a very difficult and daunting task unless you’re an incumbent and have a built in advantage of people relying on you for a job and have done it before for you. In 2017, there were 8 candidates for Mayor with only 1 candidate qualifying.
Public finance candidates for Mayor and City Council must agree in writing to a spending cap and can only spend what the city gives them.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Public finance candidates for Mayor and City Council can only accept $5.00 qualifying donations from registered city voters. Privately finance candidates can accept campaign donations from any legal source and from individuals, businesses and corporations within the city, county state or out of state and there is no city registration required.
EXPLORATORY PERIODS AND “SEED MONEY”
Candidates for Mayor and City Council who apply for public finance may “test the waters” before filing for candidacy by being allowed to raise “seed money” for their campaigns and determine their viability.
March 1 to April 16, 2021 is designated as the exploratory period for Mayor to collect “seed money” for a campaign for Mayor. Donations of $250 in seed money from individuals is allowed with a total aggregate of $132,261.85 allowed.
April 25 to May 30, 2021 is designated as the exploratory period for City Council candidates to collect “seed money” for their campaign.
City Council Candidates in all 5 City Council Districts on the November ballot can collect up to $250 in seed money contributions from voters in their Districts, but there is an aggregate cap on the total amount of seed money because of different voter registration numbers in each City Council District. The aggregate of seed money contribution limits for each city council district is as follows:
City Council District 1: $8,205.40
City Council District 3: $8,000.00
City Council District 5: $10,097.80
City Council District 7: $8,838.80
City Council District 9: $8,358.20
CAUTION: Participating candidates shall not have, within one year prior to the declaration of intent to seek public financing, raised or expended any monies in excess of the pre- and post- Exploratory Period contribution limits with the intent or effect of campaigning for elected office.
Public financed candidates are required to solicit $5.00 qualifying donations, with the donations made to the city and not to the candidate and those donations can only come from registered city voters. 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 runoff election, they are given a significantly reduced lump sum amount in public financing for the runoff election.
Candidates must receive Qualifying Contributions from 1% of the registered voters in the city or district the candidate wishes to represent. For the 2021 Municipal elections, following are the required number of qualifying $5.00 donations that must be collected:
City Council District 1: 411
City Council District 3: 315
City Council District 5: 505
City Council District 7: 442
City Council District 9: 418
QUALIFYING PERIOD TO COLLECT $5 DONATIONS
A very short time period is given to collect the $5.00 qualifying donations.
Candidates for Mayor can collect the $5.00 donations only from April 17 to June 19, 2021, approximately 8 weeks to collect the 3,779 donations.
Candidates for City Council can collect the $5.00 donations only from May 31 to July 5, 2021, or approximately 4 weeks. Note the varying number of $5.00 donations for each council district.
PUBLIC FINANCE AMOUNTS AND SPENDING LIMIT
Once candidates for Mayor and City Council collect the minimum number of qualifying $5.00 donations, the city advances to the candidates in one lump sum public financing. In exchange for the public financing, the candidates must sign and agree to spend no more than what they are given for the campaign. Following are the amounts that will be advanced to qualifying candidates:
City Council District 1: $41,027.00
City Council District 3: $40,000.00
City Council District 5: $50,489.00
City Council District 7: $44,194.00
City Council District 9: $41,791.00
IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS ALLOWED
Candidates who have qualified for public financing are allowed to collect but must claim “in-kind” contributions, which are contributions of goods or services and not cash contributions. In kind contributions for public finance candidates have the following caps for individual in-kind and aggregate in-kind contributions :
Mayor: $6,250.40 individual, $132,261.85 aggregated
City Council District 1: $1,499.68 individual, $4,102.70 aggregated
City Council District 3: $1,499.68 individual, $4,000.00 aggregated
City Council District 5: $1,499.68 individual, $5,048.90 aggregated
City Council District 7: $1,499.68 individual, $4,419.40 aggregated
City Council District 9: $1,499.68 individual, $4,179.10 aggregated
PRIVATELY FINANCED CANDIDATES HAVE NO FUNDRAISING OR SPENDING LIMITATIONS BUT CONTRIBUTION LIMITATIONS
Unlike publicly financed candidates, who may only spend the funds given to them by by the City, privately financed candidates have no fundraising or spending limits. Privately financed candidates can raise and are free to accept campaign contributions from whatever legal source they want including contributions from individuals, businesses and corporations within the city, county, state or out of state and there is no city voter registration required.
Privately financed candidates can spend whatever amount they want on a campaign. Public finance candidates can only accept the $5.00 qualifying donations from registered city voters and agree in writing to spend only what the city gives them.
There are, however, limits on individual contributions privately financed candidates can accept from donors. Specifically, Article XIII, Section 4(e) limits the total contributions from any one person, with the only exception being the candidates themselves, and the private contribution cannot exceed 5% of the salary of the elected official at the time of filing the Declaration of Candidacy.
The individual aggregate amounts that can be collected by privately financed candidates from donors for the 2021 Mayor and individual city council races are as follows:
City Council District 1: $1,499.68
City Council District 3: $1,499.68
City Council District 5: $1,499.68
City Council District 7: $1,499.68
City Council District 9: $1,499.68
MEASURE FINANCE COMMITTEES
Public financed candidates are required to solicit $5.00 qualifying donations to the city and those donations can only come from registered city voters. All public finance campaigns and public finance candidates are required to agree to a spending cap in writing and are prohibited from soliciting and asking for any other donations. Public finance candidates are said to be at a distinct disadvantage to privately financed candidates when it comes to what can be raised and spent. That is not at all the case with the involvement of measured finance committees.
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. 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.
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.
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% of the Mayor’s salary from one individual or entity, must incorporate the donor’s name into the name of the committee. No Measure Finance Committee is supposed to coordinate their activities with the individual candidates running for office, but this is a very gray area as to what constitutes coordination of activities and it is difficult to enforce.
KELLER’S CAMPAIGN MOBILIZATION
City hall confidential 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 $661,309.25 in public finance presumably he goes that route. 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 $1.3 MILLION DOLLAR CAMPAIGN FOR MAYOR WILL REPEAT ITSELF
Keller will likely qualify for the $661,309.25 in public finance as he did 4 years ago by collecting 3,779 qualifying $5 donations made to the city by registered voters. There is little doubt amongst political city hall observers the Mayor Tim Keller will once again count on measured finance committees to raise him millions more as he did 4 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 road to run for Mayor saying he was opposed to dark money and collecting large donations for campaigns thereby being indebted to donors. Keller even went so far as to brag 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 thousands 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.
A HIDEOUS THREAT TO 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.
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. It is disingenuous 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 or supporters 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.
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. Voters need to beware of the candidates and their political consultants who are seeking help from measured finance committees to be fully informed as to who they are indebted to once they have been elected.
The city is facing any number of problems that are bringing it to its knees. Those problems include the corona virus pandemic, business closures, high unemployment rates, exceptionally high violent crime and murders rates, continuing mismanagement of the Albuquerque Police Department, failed implementation of the Department of Justice reforms after a full 6 years and millions spent, declining revenues and gross receipts tax, high unemployment rates, persistent and increasing homeless numbers, a lack of mental health and counseling programs and very little economic development, just to mention a few.
The city can go no longer afford to elect a Mayor and City Council based upon promises and nothing but eternal hope for better times and for a better future. What is needed are elected officials that actually know what they are doing and will make the hard decisions without their eye on the next election or to placate their base. It is hoped that there will be more than just one candidate opposing all incumbents. What is needed is a healthy debate on solutions and new ideas to solve our mutual problems. Such a debate can only happen with contested elections. Let’s hope candidates who truly care about the city will run for Mayor and City Council with far more than just one or two running for each office.
Related links are here:
The link to the 2021 Candidate Guide is here:
The link to Public Finance General Information is here:
The link to Election Matching Funds information is here: