Democrat Mathias Swonger Announces For Bernalillo County District Attorney; Challenges Governor Appointed DA Sam Bregman For Democratic Nomination; Expect Others

On Wednesday, July 12, Democrat Mathias Swonger announced at a meeting of Democratic Party ward and precinct chairs that he is running for Bernalillo County District Attorney in 2025. After his announcement, he emailed links to his campaign web site and FACEBOOK page.

Mathias Swonger published his official announcement on his campaign web site as follows:

 “I’m a Democrat running for District Attorney in 2024 with a clear vision and commitment to change. In my decade on the front lines of the criminal justice system, I’ve learned that a strong community is one where everyone feels safe and is treated fairly, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from.

Right now, that doesn’t describe Bernalillo County.

For years, we’ve recycled the same old, status quo, tough-on-crime policies that divide us and make us weaker. When we throw law enforcement at every problem, treat people unfairly just to move things along, and overcrowd our jails and prisons at taxpayers’ expense without any practical long-term plan, we don’t make our community safer, fairer, and stronger.

But there is a way forward. A District Attorney’s office with a clear vision and a commitment to change. A vision that prioritizes the most violent crimes, partners with community providers to help address substance use, mental illness, and poverty, treats everyone with dignity and respect, and supports investments in long-term solutions to help returning citizens from jail or prison reintegrate without reoffending.

That’s why I’m running.

To bring new leadership to the DA’s office, and to fight every day for a more sensible, thoughtful approach to public safety in Bernalillo County. For a strong community, where everyone feels safe and is treated fairly, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from.

I look forward to working for you, and thank you for your support.”

Links to quoted sources are here:


The following information was gleaned and then edited from campaign materials published on SWONGER’s internet campaign web page:


 “Originally from Rhode Island, Matthias made New Mexico his home after moving here over a decade ago. He fell in love with his community, the Sandias, and most importantly, the love of his life, his wife Rosa, who was born and raised here.

Ten years later, Matthias and Rosa are the proud parents of two wonderful and spirited daughters, ages 5 and 6. On the weekends, he and the girls can be found at their local park, hiking in the foothills, or hanging out at home with nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Family is incredibly important to Matthias, and is one of the central reasons he is running: to make sure every family in Bernalillo County feels safe.

 His wife Rosa is the principal of a local elementary school.”


 “Matthias Swonger graduated from NYU Law School, in New York City, where he interned with the Legal Services of New York City Housing Unit, the Unemployment Action Center, and the Brooklyn Defender Services. In those roles, he worked with families facing evictions from public housing, people grappling with job loss, and children involved in the delinquency system.

 Mr. Swonger has served as a local public defender, in various capacities, for the past 11 years. He was drawn to public defense because of his passion for public service and working alongside people without means who need legal assistance. He has represented hundreds of clients in a wide range of cases, and his experiences with the system have convinced him that the status quo approach to public safety is not working for anybody in our community.”

As a public defender, Mr. Swonger  has worked alongside many community partners to help individuals and families get access to necessary care, treatment, and other resources, like housing. As District Attorney, he hopes to build on those relationships to create stronger partnerships between the DA’s office and community providers as another tool to improve public safety.”

 [I am a]… proud democrat.  [I have] … long supported local democratic leaders and causes, like criminal justice reform, disability awareness, and educational opportunities for all. He previously served on the board of the Autism Society of New Mexico.”


Mr. Swonger’s platform was gleaned from review of his published campaign web site and FACEBOOK page and is edited and quoted as follows:


USE DATA. Place data and facts about crime front-and-center when making big and small decisions, communicating with the public, and pursuing reform. The shape of a public safety system should be informed by reliable information, not assumptions or exaggerations.

FOLLOW SCIENCE. Studies show that addressing incidents associated with poverty, substance use, and mental illness with solutions that redirect people to resources, as opposed to involvement in the criminal justice system, is the most effective strategy for improving public safety and reducing crime in the long-term. The DA’s office should incorporate the research into its decision-making and case resolution process.

 STOP VIOLENCE. Reorder priorities and resources so the DA’s office can successfully prosecute individuals who actually pose a great danger to society. Right now, much time, energy, and manpower at the DA’s office is devoted to addressing lower-level offenses with ineffective resolutions. With a different approach, the office can be more strategic about how resources are used to more effectively stop violence.

SUPPORT FAMILIES. Our community includes victims of crime, people returning from jail or prison, and all of their loved ones. Sometimes the same family includes all of the above. A DA’s office focused on reducing crime should partner with all families and community organizations to direct resources and services that promote restoring families and community ties and reduce recidivism. This includes access to treatment, financial assistance, and meaningful opportunities for personal and professional development.

ADVOCATE FOR CHANGE. The DA’s office has a critical voice in helping determine what our public safety system looks like. In applying a fact-focused, informed approach to increasing safety in the community, the DA should advocate for meaningful reforms to the entire structure of the criminal justice system that promotes public health and safety, regardless of political pressure or the influence of special interests.

 A safer community is one in which we follow the facts and are laser-focused in our pursuit of evidence-based solutions that reduce the risk of harm to people and property. Our current one-size-fits-all approach to crime makes us less safe by separating families, overcrowding our jails and prisons, and engaging in short-term thinking.

The link to the quoted source material is here:


A STRONGER COMMUNITY is one in which every community member is treated fairly and respectfully regardless of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. It is a community where individuals and families in every neighborhood feel safe and secure, with hope for the future.

A FAIRER COMMUNITY is one in which people who undermine safety are held accountable in a manner that is proportionate and restorative. It’s an environment where folks struggling with substance use, poverty, and mental health issues are not stigmatized, and are given the opportunity to get the help they need and move their lives forward in positive ways.

EQUAL JUSTICE. Recognize and take measures to address the troubling reality that the criminal justice system often treats people differently based on their race, class, gender, and ability. Ignoring the realities of systemic racism, cyclical poverty, and ableism and the role these forces play in our system sows widespread distrust, is inconsistent with the concept of “equal justice”, and diminishes public faith in our institutions.

REHABILITATE AND RESTORE. Advocate and pursue resolutions early on that center truly rehabilitating individuals and restoring relationships, when possible, between parties. Seek resolutions that are thoughtful, deliberative, and proportional to the offense, taking into account a host of factors and long-term public safety goals.

RESPECT EVERYONE. Resist dehumanizing and stigmatizing people involved in criminal cases, and treat everyone involved with basic dignity and respect. Understand that behind every case, regardless of how it appears on its face, is a complex set of factors that shouldn’t be reduced into a black-and-white narrative, and that doing so undermines fairness in the system, which does not advance long-term public safety goals.

UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION. Respect and hold sacred the legal and Constitutional rights of everyone, like due process, fair and transparent investigations, humane treatment, timely trials, and proportionate resolutions. When we sidestep peoples’ rights in order to just move things along, we undermine the overall integrity and fairness of the system, which makes our community less safe.

REDUCE COSTS. Advocate for reforms and changes that in the long-term, reduce the staggering cost of the criminal justice system. These costs come with little accountability and fall at the feet of taxpayers and those without means, who are often indebted to fines and fees programs that help prop up the system. The lack of basic economic fairness in the system undermines public safety in the long run.

The link to the quoted source materials is here:


On January 4, Sam Bregman was appointed Bernalillo County District Attorney by Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham to serve out the remaining two years of the 4-year term of Raul Torrez who was elected Attorney General in 2022. Bregman was among 14 applicants. When appointed, Bregman said he would serve only 2 years and not run for reelection.

On Thursday, June 29, a full 6 months after his appointment as District Attorney, Sam Bregman held a press conference to “update” the public on the District Attorney’s Office. The press conference was called to highlight the success of his office over his 6 months as District attorney.  Not withstanding the purpose and intent of the press conference, DA Sam Bregman was asked by the press if he intended to run for District Attorney in 2024.  Bregman responded:

“Yes, I will be running for district attorney. When I got into this office, I was sincere in the sense that I didn’t think I would. But 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.”

On Friday, June 30, Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman made it official and announced to the public he was indeed running for a full 4 year term as District Attorney.

The link to read the full, unedited Sam Bregman campaign announcement is here:


The 2024 Democratic primary is on June 4, 2024. Normally, official announcements for elections occur the January  of  the election year. It is very difficult to recall anyone announcing for Bernalillo County District Attorney so soon, yet there are now 2 candidates and both are Democrat.

Thus far, no Republicans have announced and that may not happen which would mean whoever is the Democrat nominee will be the next District Attorney.  The last Republican elected District Attorney was over 36 years ago. Republican Steve Schiff served as District Attorney from 1981 to 1989 and was then elected to Congress where he served from January 3, 1989 to March 25, 1998  before passing away from cancer at the very young age of 51.

Bregman’s June 29 early announcement no doubt was an attempt  to “clear the field”  and to set himself up without opposition in next year’s June Democratic Party primary and perhaps run unoppose assuring an easy election. That has now changed.

From all accounts, Matthias Swonger is indeed a serious candidate that offers a fresh face to Bernalillo County politics. The biggest question will be if he can raise enough money to take on Bregman and spend enough to run respectable campaign.

It is more likely than not that there will be other candidates for Bernalillo County District Attorney. One name in particular that continues to circulate amongst politicos is that of former New Mexico United States Attorney Damon Martinez. He was one of the  14 who applied for Bernalillo District Attorney but who was passed over by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in favor of appointing Sam Bregman.


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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.