ABQ City Council Candidates Qualify For Nov 7 Ballot And Public Financing In Council Districts 2, 4, 6, 8; Balance Of Power On 2023 Ballot As Is Mayor Tim Keller’s Job Performance As He Inserts Himself Into Races

The regular 2023 municipal election to elect city councilors for City Council Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 will be held on November 7, 2023 along with $200 Million in bonds to be approved by city voters. Three of the four incumbents whose seats are on the ballot are not running for reelection. Those incumbents  are District 2’s Democrat Isaac Benton, District 6’s Democrat  Pat Davis and District 8’s Republican Trudy Jones. The only sitting councilor running this year is District 4’s first term Republican Brook Bassan.

The 2023 Regular Local Election Calendar for candidates began on April 30 with an “exploratory period” to allow candidates to organize and collect “seed money” donations and that period ended on June 4.  From June 5 to July 10, city council candidates were required to collect nominating petition signatures and $5.00 qualifying donations  from voters within their districts.    All City Council Candidate were required to collect  petition  signatures and  qualifying donations for public finance from June 5 through July 10.


All candidates were required to submit their nominating signatures and qualifying  donations collected on or before July 10 to be verified by the City Clerk as legally submitted. On Friday, July 14, the City Clerk will officially certify who has qualified for the Nov 7  ballot and public financing.  Candidates who have collected the requisite number of petitions signatures  and qualifying donations as of June 11 and who are listed on the City Clerks web page are as follows:


  • Joaquin Baca, Democrat, a hydrologist and elected member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and president of the ABQCore neighborhood association. Baca secured both the mandatory number of nominating petition signatures and $5.00 qualifying donations and he will be given $40,000 in public finance by the city to run his campaign and will be capped at $40,000 on what he can spend.
  • Loretta Naranjo Lopez, Democrat, a retired city planner and current member of the New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association Board and she is the President of the Santa Barbara-Martineztown neighborhood association. Ms. Lopez secured the mandatory number of nominating petition signatures as well the mandatory number of qualifying $5.00 donations and will also be given $40,000 in public finance.
  • Moises A. Gonzalez, community activist. As of July 7, Gonzalez had failed to secure both the required number of nominating petition signatures as well as $5.00 donations.  His numbers do not include the last paper nominating  petitions nor donations turned in on July 10 nor the electronic petitions and donations turned in after July 7 so he may still make the ballot.


  • Brook Bassan, Republican, a stay-at-home mom and incumbent councilor who sought public financing. Bassan has qualified for the ballot by  submitting  the needed 500 petition signatures and she also qualified for the $42,600 in public financing for her campaign by submitting 500 qualifying donations.
  • Abby Foster, Progressive Democrat, and private attorney.  Foster qualified for the ballot submitting the 500 petition signatures, but did not seek public financing and will be a privately financed candidate and allowed to self-finance and spend whatever amount she can raise.


  • Abel Otero, Democrat, a barber and community activist. Mr. Otero qualified for the ballot collecting the required number of nominating signatures and qualified for public financing of $40,000.
  • Kristin Green, progressive Democrat and community activist.  Green has qualified for the ballot securing the mandatory number of nominating signatures and but no final decision has been announced by the city clerk as to the qualifying number of $5.00 donations.
  • Joseph Pitluck Aguirre, Independent, a dentist and software development company owner. Mr.  Pitluck  Aguirre has qualified for the ballot, he did not seek public finance and is a privately finance candidate who has already raised well over $10,000 and will likely raise at least $40,000 or more.
  • Jeff Hoehn, Democrat, a nonprofit executive director. Hoehn has qualified for the ballot. Jeff Hoehn initially sought public financing but elected to go private after a poor showing in the first few weeks and he is now a privately financed candidate.
  • Nichole Rogers, Democrat, business consultant with background in health care, education and government and influencer in the Black community. Ms. Rogers has qualified for the ballot and has qualified for public financing.

COMMENTARY:  In order to be elected city council, the winner must secure 50% + 1 of the vote or there is a runoff between the two top vote getters. The fact that there are 5 candidates in District 6 makes it far more likely than not that there will be a run off.


  • Dan Champine, Republican, a retired police officer and current mortgage lender. Champine qualified for the ballot by submitting the required  500 petition signatures and he also qualified for public financing for his campaign by submitting 500 qualifying $5.00 donations.
  • Idalia Lechuga-Tena, Democrat, a consultant and former state representative. Lechuga-Tena qualified for the ballot by  submitting  the needed 500 petition signatures and she  also qualified for  public financing for her campaign by submitting 500 qualifying $5.00 donations.

The link to the City clerk’s website listing the qualifying candidates is here:



Now the hard part begins for the candidates.  The municipal election is on  November 7, almost a full 4 months from now, with a very hot summer in between and anything can and likely will  happen with all 4 races being hotly contested, especially in District 6 having 5 candidates who are running to replace the Progressive Democrat incumbent Pat Davis who is not seeking another term.


The November 7 municipal election could remake the council and perhaps there will be a shift in numbers  from the current 5 Democrats control to a Republican control city council or at least a conservative shift to challenge Mayor Keller’s progressive agenda. After the 2021 municipal election, the city council went from a 6 – 3 Democrat Majority with the loss of Democrat Cynthia Borrego to Republican Dan Lewis  and it  became a 5-4 Democrat majority, but the ideology split is  5 conservatives to 3 progressives and 1 moderate. The current breakdown by name is as follows:


District 1 Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez
District 2 Progressive Democrat Isaac Benton
District 3 Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña
District 6 Progressive Democrat Pat Davis
District 7 Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn


District 5 Conservative Republican Dan Lewis
District 4 Conservative Republican Brook Bassan
District 8 Conservative Republican Trudy Jones
District 9 Conservative Republican Renee Grout

Although the City Council is currently split with 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans, Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez has often allied himself with Republicans Dan Lewis, Renee Grout, Trudy Jones and Brook Bassan allowing them to approve or kill measures on a 5-4 vote but being unable to override Mayor Tim Keller’ veto’s with the required 6 votes.


Like it or not, the 2023 municipal election will be a referendum on the job performance of Mayor Tim Keller only because he himself and his supporters are inserting themselves into the races for city council when they should keep their noses out of the races. Mayor Keller is not on the 2023 ballot, but he has already made  it known he is running for third term in 2025.  City Hall sources are  saying he has already told many of key staff and supporters he is running for a third term in 2025.

Informed sources have confirmed Mayor Tim Keller has already met or spoken with at least 2 progressive democrats running and pledging his support to them. This is a clear indication that Keller is fully aware of the stakes in the upcoming 2023 municipal election and that he intends to take an active roll in electing city councilors who will support his progressive agenda over the final 2 years of his second term and to set himself up to run for a third term in 2025.

Sources have confirmed that Progressive Politcal consultant Neri Olguin, who was Mayor Tim Keller’s 2021 campaign manager, is  managing  the campaigns of District 2 Progressive Democrat candidate  Joaquin Baca and  District 4 Progressive Democrat candidate Abby Foster.  Sources have confirmed that Progressive Political consultant Brandon Padilla,  who has worked for Mayor Tim Keller, is managing the campaign of  District 6 candidate Abel Otero.  The real question that remains to be answered is if Tim Keller will actually publicly endorse candidates and to what extent Keller supporters will go to help those candidates he supports at his direction?

Complicating Keller supporting and perhaps even endorsing candidates for city council is his Keller’s 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.



Candidates for city council have confirmed that as they went door to door to collect qualifying nominating signatures and qualifying $5 donations they discovered that there was no shortage of voters who expressed a strong dislike for Mayor Tim Keller.  Not at all  surprising is the dislike for the Mayor Keller in District 8, a Republican leaning District now represented by Republican Trudy Jones. What is surprising is the dislike for the Mayor Keller is high in District 6, the most progressive district leaning Democrat now represented by Pat Davis.  Davis himself is not  well liked in his own district  which  explains his decision not to run for a third term and the 5 candidates running to replace him.

City Council Candidates campaigning door to door  found that Keller is perceived as mishandling the homeless crisis with homelessness increasing, residents believing they are not safe in their own homes and that Keller has done a poor job dealing the city’s crime rates with murders reaching all time records under Keller.  Voters asked city council candidates what they intended to do about the homeless crisis and crime.  It turns out that Mayor Keller also did himself no favors with advocating casita and duplex developments in all areas of the city to favor developers over property owners and historic neighborhoods.

Another issue that came up as candidates for city council went door to door was  that the Keller Administration spent $236,622 to purchase artificial turf for the Rio Rancho Events Center. The purchase was for the benefit of the privately owned New Mexico Gladiators to play their home football games. The Inspector General noted in no uncertain terms that the New Mexico Department of Finance (DFA) found the purchase was in violation  of “anti donation clause” which strictly bars public government entities from donating to private corporations. Mayor Keller tried to proclaim the artificial turf was not a violation of the states anti donation clause, which it was as found by the DFA.

There is little doubt as the races for city council heat up, the candidates will be asked if they support Mayor Tim Keller’s progressive  agenda and if they are Keller’s hand picked candidate who will do his bidding if  elected to the city council.


What is downright pathetic is that more than a few well known politcal pundits and city hall observers are already attempting to declare who the front runners are  and predicting the final outcomes of all 4 city council races even before the races are fully engaged and campaigning begins in earnest. Predictions of winners now does a real disservice to the candidates and the election process.  What these politcal pundits are really trying to do  is  to act like king makers. They are trying to influence the public opinion, discourage candidates  and to tip public perception in favor of their preferred candidates.  It  is the real slimy side of politics from those who have never run for office themselves and it is  so very discouraging to those who run for office who listen to their political drivel.

The city is facing any number of problems that are bringing it to its knees. Those problems include exceptionally high violent crime and murder rates, the city’s increasing homeless numbers, lack of affordable housing, lack of mental health care programs and very little next to nothing in economic development. The city cannot afford city councilors who makes promises and offers only eternal hope for better times that result in broken campaign promises.

What is needed are city elected officials who actually know what they are doing, who will make the hard decisions without an eye on their next election, not make decisions only to placate their base and please only those who voted for them. What’s needed is a healthy debate on solutions and new ideas to solve our mutual problems, a debate that can happen only with a contested election. A highly contested races reveal solutions to our problems.

Voters are entitled to and should expect more from candidates than fake smiles, slick commercials, and no solutions and no ideas. Our city needs more than promises of better economic times and lower crime rates for Albuquerque and voters need to demand answers and hold elected officials accountable.

Best wishes and good luck to all the candidates.

This entry was posted in Opinions by . Bookmark the permalink.


Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.