City Councilor Klarissa Peña Proposes Abolishing Council Staggered Terms With All 9 City Council Elections Held At The Same Time With Mayor; Proposal Could Result In 100% Turn Over Of All Elected Officials Every 4 Years And Loss Of Stability And Institutional Knowledge; Peña Should Disclose Her Own Future Political Plans If Running For Another City Council Term Or Mayor In 2025

On June 17 the Albuquerque City Council on a 6 to 3 vote passed a Charter Amendment that would eliminate all runoff elections for Mayor and City Council and mandating whoever gets the most votes wins with no runoff between the two top vote getters.  Whoever secures the most votes of all the candidates running at the same time wins the election out right. In a crowded field, the prevailing candidate would not have a majority vote but a much less percentage less than 50% of the vote.  The charter amendment must be placed on the November 5 general election ballot.  The charter amendment was sponsored Democrat Councilor Klarissa Pena and Republican Dan Lewis. Passage of the charter amendment has been severely criticized as a scheme to dilute the vote to help incumbents and those with high name identification by eliminating voter majority wins Mayor Tim Keller was quick to announce his intent to veto the  charter amendment, but the veto could be overturned on a 6 to 3 vote and then placed on the ballot.

What has not been widely reported is that Democrat City Councilor Klarissa Peña is still not done with attempting to change the basic city election process. Peña has introduced two additional charter amendments that have the goal of bringing all 9  city councilor elections into the same election cycle as the election for Mayor. The goal is to eliminate staggered terms of city councilors.

As it stands now under the city charter, 5 out of 9 City Councilors who represent the odd numbered City Council Districts 1,3,5,7and 9 are up for reelection in the same year as the Mayor. An individual who represents an odd number city council district can only run for City Council or Mayor, but not both. In other words, a City Councilor who represents an odd numbered City Council District must give up their seat if they run for Mayor.

Under one charter amendment the odd-district councilors representing Districts 1,3,5,7and 9 in 2025 would be elected to a two-year terms, then a four-year term in 2027. Under the other proposed charter amendment the even-district number councilors representing Council Districts 2,4,6 and 8 would in 2027 be elected to a two-year term requiring all 9 City Councilors to give up their seats to run for Mayor. Ultimately, only one of the two city charter amendment would be enacted by the city council. The next election for Mayor is in 2025.

It is common knowledge that Mayor Tim Keller is already preparing to run for a third term in 2025.  There are no term limits for Mayor or City Council. Councilors serve four-year terms on a staggered basis and there are no term limits for city council. District 1 City Councilor Louie Sanchez, District 3 City Councilor Klarissa Peña, District 5 City Councilor Dan Lewis, District 7 City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn, and District 9 City Councilor Renée Grout are up for reelection in 2025 and then again in 2029. To run for mayor next year in 2025 against Mayor Tim Keller, all 5 would have to surrender their city council seats. In 2013, then two term City Councilor Dan Lewis gave up his seat to run for Mayor. In 2017, then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller won the  runoff  election by a decisive landslide with 62.20% by securing 60,219 votes to Dan Lewis 37.8% who secured 36,594 votes.

District 2 City Councilor Joaquín Baca, District 4 City Councilor Brook Bassan, District 6 City Councilor Nichole Rogers and District 8 City Councilor Dan Champine are up for reelection in 2027 and then again in  2031.  All 4 could remain on the City Council to run for Mayor in 2025, and if elected Mayor would have to resign their position as a City Councilor but could then  appoint their successor.

Peña said she is very concerned about low voter turn outs in municipal elections. She said it could be beneficial for voter turnout to put all councilors on the ticket with the mayor. Peña said this:

“On the off years, we tend to garner more votes when we run with the mayor. … I think this would really drive out voter participation. … I’m just trying to achieve some fairness with this. … If you’re an odd-numbered councilor … then you really have to decide if this is the end of the road for you. [The 4 even numbered district city councilors] don’t have to make those decisions.”

Both Charter Amendments were introduced by Peña on June 17.  The charter amendments will have to go through the City Council’s committee hearing process and will likely have several rounds of public hearing before the 9 member City Council will take a final vote. Both Charter Amendments were fast-tracked in an effort to get them onto the ballot in November.  The City Council is on summer break and  the next City Council meeting will be on the August 5

The link to relied upon and quoted news source is here:


City Councilor Klarissa Peña’s support and sponsorship of eliminating all runoff elections for Mayor and City Council and now proposing abolishing staggered terms for city council and elections where all 9 city councilors would be up for election at the same time as the Mayor is a recipe for election chaos, total disruption of the election process and will be disastrous on many levels.  It also calls into question what is really motivating her and what are her own political plans.

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 result in chaos in municipal elections. Common Cause said it best when it 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.”

The primary purpose for having staggered terms for city councilors is ensure a degree of stability and allow for institutional knowledge on the city council when it comes to the legislative process. If all 9 city councilors are up for election in one election cycle, there could be a real possibly of a 100% turnover the same year on the city  council. This will result in the election of officials who have very little or no knowledge whatsoever of the legislative process, unless they have served on the council before,  that is so vitally needed for city policy and to get things done.

Councilor Klarissa Peña ostensibly believes that all city councilors should have the right to run for Mayor without giving up their seats on the city council, including herself. This is misplaced concern given that when you run for city council, it should be to do your best to represent your constituents with no concern to run for Mayor in the future. Those running for odd number city council districts know full well the limitations of running for Mayor and if not they should just ask Dan Lewis.

City Councilor Klarissa Peña said she is not aware of any odd-district councilors interested in running for mayor in 2025.  The truth is it is still way too early and it is doubtful any City Councilor who wants to run next year for Mayor would disclose it to her now or  to the public.

City Councilor Peña is up for reelection next year in 2025. What she has not disclosed is if she is running for another term or does she intend to run for Mayor against Mayor Tim Keller. In which case she will politically benefit from enactment of all the Charter Amendments she is sponsoring. In the interest of full disclosure and transparency Councilor Klarissa Peña should be far more candid about her own politcal ambitions and intentions before she starts asking voters to change our election process in such dramatic ways.

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.