With all 10 vote centers reporting as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, December 12, former city employee and financial adviser Nichole Rogers prevailed against her opponent Jeff Hoehn, the executive director of nonprofit Cuidando Los Niñosto, to win the District 6 City Council seat with 52.4% to Hoehn’s 47.76%. According to the raw vote, Nichole Rogers received 2,416 votes and Jeff Hoehn received 2,209 votes.
There are upwards of 30,000 registered voters in City Council District 6. According to numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office, turnout for the run off lagged behind the regular local election, with just 15% of eligible voters casting their ballots in the runoff election.
A total of 4,675 votes were cast in Tuesday’s runoff election was a dramatic drop from the 7,395 in the November election when 4 candidates were on the ballot. Hoehn and Rogers originally faced two other candidates, Abel Otero and Kristin “Raven” Greene, in the regular election. Rogers and Hoehn were the two top vote getters in the first election with Rogers securing 40% of the vote and Hoehn 32%. Greene endorsed Hoehn while Otero endorsed Rogers.
EXPENSIVE AND CONTENTIOUS CAMPAIGN
Jeff Hoehn was privately financed candidate. Hoehn raised $43,075 and spent at least $37,870. Nichole Rogers was publicly financed candidate and was given upwards of $40,000 in public finance to run her campaign. Because Rogers was a publicly finance candidate, she had had a spending limit of $40,000, and was given another $20,000 in public finance for the runoff.
The runoff election campaign was as contentious as it gets, as Measure Finance Committees went on the attack pushing for their particular candidates. Rogers was supported by the Real New Mexican Leadership measured finance committee, headed up by Mayor Tim Keller’s confidant and handler Neri Holguin, which funded at least 3 misleading or false mailers against Jeff Hoehn. One particularly egregious mailer cited reports of sexual harassment and racial discrimination by the National Association of Realtors, one of Hoehn’s donors, and that essentially accused Hoehn of the same conduct using a guilt by association tactic. Rogers never disavowed the mailer.
HelpABQ, the measured finance committee supporting Hoehn, in turn, labeled Rogers “unserious, inexperienced,” and “wrong for ABQ,” and in the ad saying she is endorsed by the “most extreme groups.” Hoehn disavowed the “negative messaging” which he said occurred without his authorization.
CANDIDATES REACT TO ELECTION RESULTS
City Councilor Elect Nichole Rogers is half Hispanic and half Black, and she becomes the first Black elected to an ABQ City Council seat since inception of the modern form of government in 1974. City Councilor Elect Nichole Rogers said this in a statement:
“Tonight represents not just the culmination of a campaign, but the hopes and aspirations of District 6. … We’ve worked tirelessly to bring our vision of a more inclusive, thriving community to the forefront. … The prospect of becoming the first African American woman on the Albuquerque City Council is both an honor and a profound responsibility. … It symbolizes breaking barriers and represents a step forward towards greater diversity and representation in our city’s leadership. …”
After calling to congratulate Rogers, Jeff Hoehn for his part said his political career is not over. He thanked his volunteers and voters and said this:
“We started a conversation in District 6 [about crime and homelessness] … I will sleep well, and I will regroup. …I’m not afraid to move forward. This district matters too much.”
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
District 6 was the only City Council District to have a runoff election out of the 4 council seats on the ballot in this year’s regular municipal election. In 3 of the 4 districts, the incumbent city councilor chose not to run for reelection. In District 4, incumbent Republican Brook Bassan kept her seat by prevailing against Progressive Democrat Abby Foster. In District 8, retired police officer and Conservative Republican Dan Champine prevailed over moderate Democrat Idalia Lechga Tena to replace Conservative Republican Trudy Jones. In District 2, Progressive Democrat Joaquín Baca won without a runoff prevailing against Moderate Democrat Loretta Naranjo Lopez and Independent Moses Gonzales to replace Progressive Democrat Isaac Benton.
MAYOR KELLER’S INVOLVEMENT IN CITY COUNCIL RACES
Mayor Tim Keller became actively involved and behind the scenes in the campaigns of 3 Progressive Democrat city council candidates. The candidates who had the full support of Mayor Tim Keller were Progressive Democrats Abby Foster, Joaquin Baca and Nichole Rogers. Keller’s own campaign manager, politcal advisor and confidant Neri Holguin was the paid politcal consultant for Progressive Democrat Abby Foster, who lost to Incumbent Brook Bassan and Joaquin Baca, who prevailed over his two opponents to win without a runoff.
Mayor Keller was also involved with the campaign of Nichole Rogers. She had worked for the Mayor Tim Keller as a policy advocate and community organizer. Confidential sources confirmed that Rogers received significant help in collecting nominating petitions signatures and qualifying donations from at least 2 city hall employees who work directly for Mayor Tim Keller. Rogers also went so far as to tell Progressive Democrats privately in the District that she was Mayor Keller’s candidate to replace Progressive Democrat Pat Davis who is a Keller ally.
Keller political consultant Neri Holguin initially was involved with the Rogers campaign. It was Holguin who called Jeff Hoehn and told him in no uncertain terms not to run for city council, that he could not win and that Mayor Keller would not support him and that Keller wanted a person of color for the district. Holguin also headed up the measured finance committee and solicited donations for it that published a number of negative and misleading politcal hit pieces against Jeff Hoehn in the runoff.
A NO MANDATE, RUBBER STAMP CITY COUNCILLOR
City Councilor elect Nichole Rogers credibility and reputation took more than a few major hits tainting her reputation when allegations of her impropriety were revealed during the run off, allegations that will still linger as she assumes office. Those areas of concern included gross mismanagement of her nonprofit Westland Foundation and failure to file required documents with the Internal Revenue Service, the New Mexico Attorney General and the New Mexico Secretary of State, failure to account fully income and fund raising for her corporation, a disturbing history of civil litigation over debts and money due, failure to pay rent, evictions and property liens and misdemeanor convictions she refused to confirm or deny and actual residency in the District for a full 6 years as she claimed.
Although Councilor Elect Nichole Rogers prevailed in the election, with such an extremely low voter turnout, and a tainted reputation to go with it, the election was way too close for Rogers to consider it a mandate on any level. Given the amount of support she received from Mayor Tim Keller, his political confidant Neri Holguin as well as the negative campaign by the measured finance committees that opposed Progressive Democrat Jeff Hoehn, she will be viewed as totally indebted to Mayor Tim Keller and will will likely be an ineffective city councilor. Sadly, Rogers will be viewed as nothing more than a rubber stamp for any and all things Tim Keller and all of his policies over the next two years of his second term. She will also have to deal with a new city council who will no doubt not be so willing to do Mayor Keller’s bidding and that will likely marginalize her.
KELLER NEW CITY COUNCIL MORE COMBATIVE CITY COUNCIL
Come January 1, 2024 the new city council will look much the same as the old city council. Following is how the new city council looks:
District 1 Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez
District 2 Progressive Democrat Joaquin Baca
District 3 Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña
District 6 Progressive Democrat Nichole Rogers
District 7 Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn
District 5 Conservative Republican Dan Lewis
District 4 Conservative Republican Brook Bassan
District 8 Conservative Republican Dan Champine
District 9 Conservative Republican Renee Grout
Although the new City Council will still be split with 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans, Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez has often allied himself with conservative Republicans Dan Lewis, Renee Grout, and Brook Bassan who still will be on the council and Conservative Republican Dan Champine is expected to join in allowing them to approve or kill measures on a 5-4 vote but being unable to override Mayor Tim Keller’s veto’s with the required 6 votes.
The first item of business of the new city council once they are sworn in on January 1, 2024 will be the election of a new City Council President and Vice President. It would come as no surprise if Conservative Democrat City Councilor Louis Sanchez is voted as the new City Council President along with Conservative Republican Dan Lewis elected as the new Vice President with votes of Sanchez, Lewis, Bassan, Champine and Grout.
COUNCIL OVERIDES TWO PROGESSIVE KELLER VETOS
Notwithstanding the Democrat majority, the city council has already begun to show resistance to Mayor Keller’s progressive agenda as going too far. In November, Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis sponsored two separate resolutions, one to replace the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board and another to place on hold the boards plans to dramatically change environmental justice regulations by increasing regulations and prohibitions on the issuance of air quality permits. The resolution increased regulations and prohibitions on the issuance of air quality permits and mandated excessive environmental studies. The Air Quality Board was conducting hearings on the environmental justice regulations. Mayor Tim Keller vetoed both resolutions. The City Council voted to override both vetoes with bi partisan votes, one on a 6 to 3 vote and the other on a 7 to 2 vote, with Democrats Louis Sanchez, Klarissa Pena, and even Progressive Pat Davis joining in on one of the votes.
Mayor Tim Keller took an active roll in trying to elect 3 city councilors who he believed will support his progressive agenda over the final 2 years of his second term. He did so to set himself up to run for a third term in 2025. Keller has already made it known to top aides he intends to run for a third term.
As it stands now in 2023, Tim Keller has extremely low approval ratings with one Journal Poll showing he has a 32% approval rating and his approval rating is likely to go down even further over the next 2 years with an adverse city council. Keller no doubt thinks he can turn his popularity around over the next two years and like the last time believes he will have weak to no opposition. Don’t bet on it given that sources have confirmed efforts are now underway to find candidates to oppose Keller in 2025 with another poll taken and potential candidates listed and where Keller garnered 18% in the poll.
Names are already beginning to surface to run against Tim Keller in 2025 and include Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis, Democrats Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover, former NM Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen and even Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman. If Jeff Hoehn is serious for his part saying his political career is not over, he just may want to run against Tim Keller in 2025 which would be genuine poetic justice on a number of levels.