3 Out of 4 City Charter Amendments Pass City Council With Veto Proof Margins; Will Be On November Election Ballot Unless Mayor Keller Veto’s And No Override

On June 17, the Albuquerque City Council passed 3 out of 4 City Charter amendments with veto proof  margins. The Charter Amendments  will be on the November  5 general election ballot and must be approved by voters to become law unless Mayor Keller vetoes the measures and the council fails to overide.


This was the most contentious of the 4 amendments. This  charter amendment was sponsored by Republican Dan Lewis and co-sponsored by Democrat Councilor Klarissa Pena. It would eliminate all run off elections between the two top vote getters.  Who ever secures the most votes of all the candidates running wins the election out right. If there is a tie between the two top vote getters, then and only then would there be a runoff.  Initially when the Mayor-City Council form of government was created, it was common to have upwards of 15 candidates running for Mayor and who ever got the most votes won.

A best example of this type of election occurred in 1997 when Progressive Democrat Jim Baca was elected with 29% of the vote in an 8 candidate race. Baca was hampered during his 4 years as Mayor by critics claiming he did not have a mandate to govern. In 2017, when there were also 8 candidates running for Mayor, and when  runoffs were mandated between the two top vote getters, Tim Keller won the 2017 runoff by a decisive landslide with 62.20% by securing 60,219 votes to Dan Lewis 37.8% who secured 36,594 votes.

Eliminating runoffs favors incumbents and those who have major name identification. The City Council voted 6-3 in favor of putting the charter amendment before voters. City Republican City Councilors Dan Lewis, Brook Bassan, Renee Grout and Dan Champine and Democrat City Councilors Louie Sanchez and Klariss Pena voted “YES”. Democrat City Councilors Tammy Fiebelkorn, Nichole Rogers and Joaquín Baca voted “NO”.

A few dozens members of public commented on the amendment. One commenter said, despite the high cost of runoff elections, it was “money well spent.”  Many of Tuesday’s public commenters spoke against the  changes and  lowering the percentage of votes a candidate needs to win a city election. “Breaking with established norms, you are proposing to do away with majority rule, a cornerstone of a representative democracy. You are suggesting that a candidate that receives a majority of votes against them is fit to serve and carries a mandate to govern”  said one public commenter.

Several public commentors  called the proposal undemocratic which prompted City Council President Dan Lewis, a  bill sponsor to challenge the comment. Lewis said this:

“There’s nothing more democratic than Council to be voting on this tonight. … And nothing more democratic than the general public voting on this in November.”

Councilor Klarissa Peña, the second sponsor of the amendment, said primary runoff elections are used in only a few states and were rooted in racist policies intended to keep white politicians in power. Peña said this:

“This is history, folks.”

First term City Councilor Nichole Rogers, the only African American on the city council, and who was elected in November, 2023 in a runoff election after none of the 4 candidates running secured 50% of the vote, rejected Pena’s  argument and said this:.

“Do not use my people’s plight to justify … making things easier for you to win.”


The second charter amendment would have changed the process for hiring and firing of the city clerk and city attorney. Originally, the amendment provided for the creation of  a nominating committee for city clerk and city attorney with representatives from City Council and the Mayor’s Office, but that was voted down by the council.

It was City Councilor Dan Champine who sponsored the amendment to change the removal process for city clerk and city attorney, and who proposed a hiring committee. Champine said the mayor should have the power to appoint people  but that City Council should have a say in removing people.  Champine said this:

“Our mayor is elected to run the city. He builds his cabinet to help him run the city as he sees fit. But the duty of the council is that when he appoints somebody … it is our responsibility to do our due diligence to vet that person properly. … It’s about the position, not the person.”

The removal process was changed so either the city clerk or city attorney could be removed by the vote of seven councilors, or the mayor with the consent of five councilors. City Councilor Brook Bassan said this:

“It’s going to take a small miracle to get seven of us to vote to remove one of these two positions. … If that were the case, those two people … they need to go.”

Ultimately, the charter amendment failed to pass on a  4 YES to 5 No vote.


On a 6 YES to 3 NO vote, the City Council approved a charter amendment which would change the process for removing the chief of police or the fire chief.  The current charter requires cause to remove the police and fire chief. An amendment passed would require an employment contract agreement for both positions.


Councilors voted 7 YES to 2  NO in favor of a proposed charter amendment to create a process to fill vacancies on a city committee intended to resolve separation of powers issues between the mayor and city council. The committee includes appointees of both the mayor and city council.

The link to a quoted and relied upon news sources are here:





Simply put, the Charter Amendment to reduce the vote to win a City Council or Mayoral race with whoever gets the most votes with no runoffs is very bad government on many levels and will promote chaos in municipal elections. The relations between Mayor Tim Keller and the more conservative majority city council have deteriorated because of the sure frustration the conservatives on the council have experienced in not being able to stop the Keller progressive agenda with overriding vetoes.  As a result, the city council is once again trying to get city voters to change our basic form of city government with charter amendments in order to carry out a personal vendetta against a Mayor they do not like and who they perceive as ineffective and unpopular.

Its downright offensive to city voters that City Council President Dan Lewis  and Klarissa Pena pulled  the “race card” alleging runoff elections are rooted in racist strategies in the South. Both conveniently ignored  the fact that it was voters who changed the charter provisions by requiring run offs where no one candidate secures 50% of the vote  and it was done so on recommendation of a Charter Review Task Force.

Common Cause was quick to address the city council vote on social media this way:

“[The Albuquerque City Council]  took us backward by amending an already bad proposal. Rather than lowering the threshold to be elected mayor or city councilor from 50% to 40%, they’ve eliminated any threshold altogether. Candidates under this scheme could be elected with 10% for example. The 6-3 passage of this proposal means, voters will be confronted with a question on this November’s ballot to eliminate run-offs and move to a free-for-all voting process where fringe candidates and special interests will dominate our elections.”

Mayor Tim  Keller should veto the proposed Charter Amend measure on election votes and try to talk some sense into the Democrats City Councilors Klarissa Pena and Louie Sanchez in the hopes of changing their minds, but that will likely be an exercise in futility given the poor relations he has with the two and for that matter the city council in general.

Links to two related blog articles are here:

ABQ Journal Guest Opinion Columns on City Council Charter Amendments; City Council Should Vote “NO” On All 4 Amendments

Conservative City Council Continues With Personal Vendetta Against Mayor Tim Keller And His Progressive Agenda; Council Proposes Sweeping City Charter Amendments To Impact Mayor Keller Re-Election Chances And To Give City Council More Power Over Appointments If He Is Re Elected, Which Is A Big If

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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.