“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
Four Stat Army General George S. Patton, Jr. World War II
MAYOR TIM KELLER’S WIN
Congratulations to Mayor Tim Keller on his decisive win over Sheriff Manny Gonzales and Radio Talk show host Eddy Aragon. On election night, Keller basked in the glory of a victory well-earned as he spoke to his supporters with his wife and young children standing by his side. Mayor Keller can take great comfort that voters had enough confidence in giving him another 4 years as mayor without a run off. Keller can be very thankful that he won with 56% of the final vote and that he had two very weak candidates this election cycle with conservative “Democrat in Name Only” Sheriff Manny Gonzales who secured 26% of the vote and Der Führer Trump Radio Shock Jock Eddy Aragon who secured 18% of the vote. Although the percentage victory was high, the voter turn out was still a low 119,745 votes cast in a city that has 383,000 voters.
What Mayor Keller cannot take great comfort in is that despite his decisive victory of 56%, his popularity has taken a major hit. Keller was first elected in 2017 by coming in first by beating all 7 of his opponents to get into a runoff. He went on to win in 2017 by a decisive landslide against Dan Lewis who secured 37.8% with Keller winning with 62.2% of the vote. In this year’s election year, Dan Lewis was again elected to city council garnering 52% of the vote and by beating incumbent City Councilor Cynthia Borrego’s 40% of the vote and who who replaced Lewis 4 years ago. One year ago, Keller had a 61% approval rating. Even with his constant, daily search for attention, press conferences, very recent polls show Keller’s job approval rating is at a disappointing 50% compared to his 56% victory, meaning that 50% of the voters may be disappointed in his job performance, but they decided to vote for him anyway and could not vote for his opposition. Keller’s low approval rating is likely because of the pandemic and his failure to keep his promise of reducing crime.
Keller’s accomplishments over the last 4 years have been less than stellar. The city’s high murder rate is rising even further. Violent crime and murders are still increasing with the city breaking the all-time record 3 times during his term. Keller has not come close to the change he promised in 2017. Keller failed to make the sweeping changes to the Albuquerque Police Department, and his promised implementation of the DOJ reforms stalled so much that he fired his first chief. Keller has appointed Harold Medina – who has a nefarious past with the use of deadly force against two people suffering from psychotic episodes – permanent chief. Keller is not even close to reaching the 1,200 sworn police officers promised 4 years ago with APD down to about 900 sworn police officers. Community-based policing is still a thing of the past. Keller’s promise to bring down violent crime never materialized and his 4 programs to bring down violent crime have failed. During the four years of his first term, murders hit an all-time record and the overwhelming majority are still unsolved. Keller’s only major accomplishment of getting funding for the Gateway Center and acquiring the old Loveless hospital for the City’s homeless is still on the drawing board pending a conditional use approval with remodeling still in the distant future.
SECOND TERM CURSE
The downside to winning a second term for Mayor Tim Keller is that nothing is going to change much for him over the next 4 years. After 4 years in office, Mayor Tim Keller under his leadership still has a police department that is failing miserably to police itself and is in a catastrophic meltdown. The public is still waiting for results in reducing violent crime which has only gotten worse under his tenure. Keller has only himself to blame given the fact he promised to bring down crime, implement the police reforms and he personally selected those in charge of APD and he went back on his campaign promise not once but twice to hire a new Chief from outside the agency. Keller appointed as the new chief a man with a nefarious past having shot and killed a 14-year-old having a psychotic episode and gave the order authorizing the use of deadly force to take into custody a 26-year-old suffering from post-traumatic syndrome that resulted in the city paying out millions to settle the case.
Consecutive second terms are usually worse than first terms for mayor if they get one, just ask former Mayors Marty Chavez and Richard Berry who served consecutive terms. All the problems that existed for Keller the day before the election still exist the day after his election to a second term. Keller still has skyrocketing violent crime rates he promised to bring down, APD is still failing to come into compliance with the Department of Justice Consent decree reforms, APD continues to shrink in size with sworn police leaving in droves, the homeless crisis continues to get worse as homeless numbers spike, the city’s unemployment rate is above the national average as is the city’s poverty rates, Keller has no economic development he can really take credit for and we still have a downtown that remains a ghost town despite Keller’s pledge and efforts to revitalize it. Selling the historic Rosenwald building on central to his supporters the Garcia’s for a song is not downtown revitalization. Mayor Keller and his appointed Chief Medina are faced with a police union that has no respect for him nor his police chief. A recent union survey found that 98% of sworn police do not feel supported by Mayor Tim Keller and 94% sworn police do not approve of Police Chief Harold Medina. Complicating matters is that APD police are leaving the department in droves and now Keller is resorting to offering new APD recruits $10,000 sign on bonuses.
MAYOR TIM KELLER’S LOSSES ON CITY COUNCIL
Although Mayor Keller won a second term by a decisive margin in all 5 of the City Council Districts on the ballot this year, things will no doubt dramatically change for him on the Albuquerque City Council. His support of two Democrat incumbents did them no good, even though Keller himself won the two council districts.
District 3 Democrat City Councilor Klarissa Peña, 54, was unopposed this year. She had a business and community service background having worked with Youth Development, Inc (YDI) for a number of years. Peña was first elected to the post in December 2013 and cruised to a second-term victory over one challenger in 2017.
In City Council District 1, Albuquerque’s Central Westside, Democrat City Councilor Lan Sena, 31, lost to Democrat and former APD police officer Louie Sandchez,(56), who now operates 2 Allstate Insurance companies. Sanchez when with APD was also assigned to Mayor Chaves’ security detail. City Councilor Lan Sena is progressive democrat appointed by Mayor Keller to the City Council when long serving City Councilor Ken Sanchez passed away on January 1. Councilor Sena was a considered a reliable progressive vote for Keller’s initiatives and the Planned Parenthood measured finance committee sent out flyers jointly promoting Keller and Sena.
Incumbent Democrat City Councilor and President of the City Council Cynthia Borrego, 64, District 5, lost her bid for a second 4-year term to former Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis. Borrego was a reliable vote for Keller on the city council. Dan Lewis won his seat back with 52% of the vote to Borrego’s 40% of the vote with Phillip Ramirez, 43, securing 9% of the vote. Conservative Republican Dan Lewis will now have his old platform on city council and will no doubt take an adversarial approach dealing with Keller on the city council and perhaps run for Mayor again in 2025.
The mid-heights City Council District 7 race had 6 running to succeed Democrat Diane Gibson, who announced in April that she would not seek a third term. Diane Gibson was known to support Manny Gonzales over Tim Keller for re-election after Keller repeatedly ignored Gibson. A runoff will be between conservative Republican Lori Robertson, 48, a real estate agent and Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn, 51, who City Councilor Diane Gibson endorsed as her successor. Should Republican Robertson win, Keller’s influence over the city council will be diminished with a significantly reduced Democrat majority.
In District 9, the East Central and 4 hills area, three candidates were trying to succeed long time serving, ineffective, uninspiring, unknown Don Harris, a Republican who decided not to seek a fifth term after serving since 2005. A runoff will between conservative Republican candidate, Renee Grout, 60, who received 42% of the vote, and Democratic candidates, Rob Grilley Jr., 37, earned 30%. Democrat Byron Powdrell, 54, earned 28% of the vote, had received the Journal endorsement and who is part of the famous Powdrell family known for their bar-b-que restaurants. Democrat Grilley could become the first Democrat to win in the district after many years of Republican control if he can get the support of Powdrell and his voters.
KELLER’S SOCCER STADIUM BOND LOSS
The $50 million gross receipt tax bond had 35% who voted for it and had 65% who voted against it. Mayor Tim Keller from the very beginning was a major proponent of the $50 million bonds initiative to build a multiuse soccer stadium estimated to cost $65 million-$70 million. On July 24, Keller took part in pregame tailgate parties for a New Mexico United Soccer Team game and then took to the field of Isotopes Park during halftime. In a campaign style speech before a crowd of tailgate party goers, Keller announce to the crowd of 10,000 he was sending a resolution to City Council to place the proposal on the November 2 ballot . The City Council did just that, but the bond measure failed miserably on a two to one vote while virtually all of the other bond requests passed by healthy majorities. The stadium bonds failed, despite a $1 million dollar ad campaign finance by New Mexico United soccer team that was to be the primary tenant of the facility and that agreed to contributing $10 million for construction and leasing it from the city and paying $800,000 in rent a year to the city. Election night, Keller said his administration will respect the voters’ decision not to fund the stadium.
VOTER TURN OUT
The 2021 municipal election saw upwards of 22,000 more voters over the 2017 election. According to the Bernalillo County clerks office, 119,745 votes were cast out of the 383,000 registered voters. Keller won with 56% of the final vote (66,051) Sheriff Manny Gonzales secured 26% (30,139) of the final vote and Eddy Aragon secured 18% (21,654) of the vote and write in candidate Patrick B. Sais secured 294 votes, less than half of 1%. According to the Bernalillo County clerks office, turnout countywide turnout was 30.5% and city-wide turnout was just over 32%.
With 119,745 votes cast, representing 32%, the 2021 election goes down as having the highest voter turnout going back 20 years. In the 2017 mayor’s race and municipal election, 97,399 voted or 29%. I n the 2013 mayor’s race, only 70,473 voted, or a miserable 19%.
The likely explanation for the historical turnout is that New Mexico law was changed that consolidated local elections that that increased the voter turnout. This year’s municipal election was not conducted by the city clerk but conducted by the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office. The 2021 ballot featured the mayor’s race, 5 city council races and voter bond approval of multiple bonds, including one for a soccer stadium. The 2021 ballot also had the the Albuquerque Public Schools, Central New Mexico Community College, the Village of Tijeras, the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District on the ballot and more.
“ALL GLORY IS FLEETING” IN A “DEAD END JOB”
In politics, timing is everything and so is opposition. Tim Keller has had a very charmed political career as far as timing and opposition. He has shown political opportunism at its worst as he jumped from state senator after defeating another democrat to state auditor both times in midterm and then ran for Mayor in 2017. Keller rode a waive of popularity he created as State Auditor as a white night combating “waste, fraud and abuse” in state government to run for Mayor in 2017. That charm and opportunism will come to a screeching halt if Keller’s popularity continues on the downward spiral which is more likely than not to happen in a second term. That is just the nature of the office of mayor where it is impossible not to offend anyone.
The job of Mayor of Albuquerque is considered a “dead end job” by many political observers. To become mayor of Albuquerque is to become disliked. A mayor becoming disliked is caused by what is referred to as “voter political fatigue”. Just ask former Democratic Mayors Jim Baca, Ken Schultz, Marty Chavez and Republican Mayor Richard Berry, all who wanted to go on to higher office such as United State congress or Governor.
Two term Republican Mayor Harry Kinney, who has passed away, ran for Governor and could not secure the Republican nomination. Democrat Jim Baca wanted to run for United States Congress but lost his bid for a second term which ended his political career. Democrat Ken Schultz had every intention of running for Governor until Governor Bruce King announced he was running again and Schultz went on to lose his bid for a second term as Mayor. Schultz also went on to be indicted and plead guilty to the Metropolitan Court scandal for receiving kick back in involved with the multi million dollar state construction project.
Democrat Mayor Marty Chavez after his first term decided not to seek a second consecutive term and he left with a 71% approval rating to run for Governor only to lose to Republican Governor Gary Johnson who sought a second term. Thereafter Chavez successfully ran for two more terms as Mayor but lost his fourth bid to become mayor to Republican Mayor Richard Berry. Before that, Mayor Chavez ran for US Senate when Senator Pete Domenici retired, but Chavez was essentially force out of the race by US Senate Leadership who refused to support Chavez and supported congressman Tom Udall. After serving his 3rd term as Mayor and losing to Berry, Chavez ran for US congress and came in third when Democrat Mitchell Lujan Grisham became the congresswoman for the Albuquerque area district.
After being elected to his second term as mayor in a landslide victory, Richard Berry was making plans to run for Governor but as a legacy project he unilaterally decided upon constructing the ART Bus line down central. Berry left office on December 1 when Tim Keller was sworn into as Mayor. Berry had a 34% approval rating when he left office dashing any hopes he had on becoming governor.
Like most, if not all Mayors before him, Tim Keller has higher ambitions. He has said to many in private he wants to run for Governor or a federal office and go to Washington. Keller has said in the past his ultimate goal is to be Governor and run in 2026 after Governor Lujan Grisham serves a second term, if she is reelected. If Keller goes on to higher office, he will be the only Mayor since the creation of the modern-day Mayor and 9 member City Council form of government to go on to higher office. If Keller does in fact seek a third term as Mayor, or seeks to run for Governor, or even runs for federal office where he will have to run against an incumbent Democrat, Mayor Keller’s charmed political career of having very weak opposition will come to an end. Until then congratulations and good luck to Mayor Tim Keller on his decisive win and over the next 4 years.
Rumor has it Keller’s campaign manager Neri Olguin was last seen election night holding the city’s’ blue seal over Keller’s head while he was bent over to his side as Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair was whispering in Keller’s ear “all glory is fleeting.”