NEWS UPDATE: On Thursday, June 29, it was reported that District Attorney Sam Bregman was asked if he had changed his mind and would be running for District Attorney in 2024. In response to the question Bregman said this:
“Yes, I will be running. … We have put things in place that I believe are starting to make a difference. I believe things are starting to get better when it comes to crime.”
A legendary story involving former 3 term New Mexico Governor Bruce King was when a politician was seeking support on an issue they felt very important and they had already secured Governor King’s support. It turned out that Governor King had changed his mind. When confronted with his “flip flop” by the upset politician, Governor King reportedly said with a twang in his voice “Well, I may have promised, but I never gave a firm commitment.” It sure does look like Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman has told Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham that he may have promised not to run for District Attorney but he never gave her a firm commitment!
BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY SAM BREGMAN
Sam Bregman was appointed Bernalillo County District Attorney by Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham on January 4 to serve out the remaining two years of the 4 year term of Raul Torrez who was elected Attorney General in 2022. After being appointed DA, Bregman made it known he would serve only 2 years and not run for reelection. Bregman disclosed to more than a few within the legal community when he was applying for DA, it was his intent to run for Mayor in 2025.
Sam Bregman is a 1989 graduate of the University of New Mexico Law School. He is a former Democratic Party State Chairman. Bregman served as an Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorney from 1994 through 1997. Bregman was an elected Albuquerque City Council from 1995 until 1999 and has a served as Deputy State Auditor for the State of New Mexico. Bregman unsuccessfully ran for Commissioner of Public Lands and Mayor of Albuquerque. Bregman also served on the New Mexico Racing Commission and was Chairman of the Commission. Bregman has trial experience in both civil and criminal defense’ with 3 decades of trial experience.
The January 3, 2023 press release announcing Bregman’s appointment said this in part:
“A former prosecutor with extensive experience in litigation and case oversight, Sam Bregman will bring a fresh perspective to the Second Judicial District Attorney’s office,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “I am confident that he will serve as a dedicated and effective District Attorney focused on improving public safety and supporting the people of Bernalillo County.”
“I am honored to be appointed as Second Judicial District Attorney. I realize the great responsibility of the role and am committed to relentlessly pursuing justice for the residents of Bernalillo County,” said Bregman. “I look forward to joining the hardworking staff of the DA’s office and will prioritize fully staffing the office to support their ongoing critical work. Together we will serve the people of central New Mexico and deliver real results and improve public safety.”
Bregman will serve the remaining two years of the existing term. He will not run for re-election to the office, focusing on the office’s work to combat crime and build stronger, safer communities.”
POLITICAL DRAMA RECALLED
The Governor’s appointment of Sam Bregman Bernalillo County District Attorney came with a lot of political drama when on December 2, the Governor’s office released the names of 10 attorneys who applied for the appointment and Bregman’s name was one of the 10. On December 12, the deadline for attorneys to file applications was extended to December 23. No explanation was given for the extension of time for applications. On December 28, the names of 4 additional attorneys who applied were released bringing the total number of applicants to 14. Speculation was rampant that the Governor was not at all satisfied with the 10 original applicants and she wanted to appoint a female which was the reason for extending the deadline to recruit and allow others to apply.
Notwithstanding the politcal drama, the appointment of Sam Bregman did not come as a surprise to politcal insiders. Since announcing the names of all 14 applicants, insiders said the appoint was Bregman’s for the asking and that he had the “inside track” on the appointment because of his politcal connections, association and fundraising for the Governor. There are no term limitations for the office of Bernalillo County District Attorney.
CHANGING ONE’S MIND
Sources within the District Attorney’s office have confirmed that Sam Bregman had a get together for all of his staff at his home a few weeks ago. It was at that time that he called in his deputies for a meeting and disclosed to them that he intended to run for District Attorney next year. Bregman was said to have also told others that he is already begun to put his campaign together and has gone so far as to begin preparing TV commercials.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The big question is if Governor Lujan Grisham appointed Bregman in exchange for his commitment not to run for a full 4 year term in 2 years. Such a concession and agreement has happened before when Governor Lujan Grisham appointed Jim Collie Bernalillo County Commission for 2 years in exchange for his commitment not to seek a full 4 year term.
What did come as a surprise to many is that Bregman would even agree to serve only the remaining 2 years of Raúl Torrez’s 4 year term and say he would not run for a full 4 year term in 2024. Essentially Bregman became a lame duck or caretaker upon his appointment and would not be able to do much with the office over 24 months.
There is little doubt that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham will be upset if Bregman has reneged on a commitment not to run he made to her. The Governor is known to have a little vindictive streak in her and it is likely she will make her displeasure known to him and perhaps go so far as to find a candidate to run against him.
Then there is the matter of others running within the Democratic Party against Bregman. Chief Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone announced last year he was running and went so far as to create web page. Another name that has been circulating as wanting to run for Bernalillo County District Attorney is Damon Martinez, the former United States Attorney for New Mexico who ran for congress. Martinez was among one of the 14 original applicants for District Attorney but was passed over by the Governor. Martinez’s credential’s made him the most qualified choice for Bernalillo County District Attorney, but Governor Lujan Grisham chose politics over qualifications to appoint Bregman.
A KELLER BREATHS SIGH OF RELIEF
With a full two and a half years left before the 2025 municipal elections, people are already talking about and are in fact looking for candidates for Mayor. This is in large part because of Mayor Tim Keller’s exceptionally low approval ratings. On November 3, the Albuquerque Journal released a poll on the job performance of Mayor Tim Keller. The results of the poll showed Keller has a 40% disapproval rating, a 33% approval rating an with 21% mixed feelings. The low approval rating was attributed to Keller’s continuing failure to bring down the city’s high crime rates despite all of his promises and programs, his failure to deal with the homeless crisis and his failure to fully staff APD after promising to have 1,200 sworn police during his first term.
Keller did himself no favors with the recent enactment of his Housing Forward ABQ Plan by a divided city council which passed it on a 5-4 vote. Keller has now opened himself up to the allegation that he is a “profits before people” politician favoring developers and investors over neighborhoods and property owners.
There is little doubt that District Attorney Sam Bregman would be the most formidable candidate to run for Mayor in 2025 on a platform of the city’s spiking homicide rates that have occurred under Mayor Tim Keller’s years in office. The one person who benefits the most with Bregman running for District Attorney obviously is Mayor Tim Keller who is already saying privately to his supporters and some staff members he is running for a third term. Notwithstanding, Keller’s popularity has waned and is still declining dramatically. Many view him as being over his head and a failure in solving the city’s problems.
OTHER CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR
In addition to Tim Keller, there are 4 other potential candidates already being mentioned as running for Mayor:
TWO TERM DEMOCRAT BERNALILLO COUNTY CLERK LINDA STOVER
County Clerk Linda Stover has already told Mayor Tim Keller she intends to run for Mayor in 2025. Stover has been elected twice to 4-year terms as Bernalillo County Clerk with very comfortable margins. She is term limited and she is well like within the Democratic party. She has not at all been shy on FACEBOOK indicating she wants to run for Mayor and billboards with her image encouraging people to vote only stoked speculation she wants to run for Mayor. She has made it known to more than a few county employees she is running for Mayor. Keller is ostensibly concerned over her candidacy having admonished his constituent services liaison officer Alan Armijo and others from taking photos with her that could wind up in her campaign materials and on FACEBOOK.
REPUBLICAN CITY COUNCILOR DAN LEWIS
Then 2 term City Councilor Dan Lewis ran for Mayor in 2017 and was among 8 candidates that year. Lewis and Keller made it into the runoff to run against each other. Keller won by a landslide securing 62.2% of the vote to Dan Lewis at 37.8% of the vote. Lewis returned to the City Council when he was elected on November 2, 2021 after defeating first term Democrat City Councilor Cynthia Borrego. Soon after being elected to city council, Lewis made it known privately to many of his supporters he is running for Mayor in 2025. He is champing at the bit to have a rematch with Keller so much so that he has gone out of his way to be one of the main critics of Keller on city issues.
FIRST TERM DEMOCRAT CITY COUNCILOR LOUIS SANCHEZ.
Sources within APD are saying he is eyeing running for Mayor. Democrat Councilor Sanchez, along with Dan Lewis, has become the media go to city councilor to object to all things Tim Keller. Since commencing his term on the City Council on January 1, 2021 Louie Sanchez has aligned himself with all 4 Republicans on major Republican sponsored resolutions calling for the repeal of past Democrat initiatives. Sanchez has voted for the Republican sponsored repeals of Democrat sponsored legislation including the city policy mandating project labor agreements, the emergency powers given to the Mayor to deal with the pandemic and voted to repeal the ban on the use of plastic bags at businesses. Sanchez raised more than a few eyebrows in 2022 when it was reported on March 14, 2022 he had established a political action committee called the Working Together New Mexico PAC that was formed to back “moderate” Democrats in a host of contested Democratic Party primary races.
FIRST TERM REPUBLICAN CITY COUNCILOR BROOK BASSAN
Bassan’s name as potential candidate for Mayor in 2025 began to circulate 1 year ago. However, her initial support and then withdrawal of support of city sanctioned safe outdoor space tent encampments resulted in loss of support of many of her constituents. Bassan’s District 6 City Council seat is one of 4 council seats that will be on the November 7 ballot.
Bregman will in all likely be difficult to beat. But then again, it has been decades since he has run for office and no one has yet announced they are running, and no one knows what the Governor will do.
With a full two and a half years left before the 2025 municipal elections, it is more likely than not that there will be more candidates for Mayor as Mayor Keller continues to try and turn his favorability ratings around which will be very difficult to do at best.