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Berry leads fundraising in Albuquerque mayoral race

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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

It looks like Mayor Richard Berry’s re-election campaign will enjoy a substantial financial edge over his rivals, according to finance reports filed last week.

But opponents of the mayor could have some spending power of their own, through political committees rather than the candidates themselves.

Berry is the fundraising leader so far this year, having accepted about $500,000 in cash contributions, according to reports filed with the city clerk.

That compares with the roughly $360,000 that rival candidate Pete Dinelli received through Albuquerque’s public-financing system.

Dinelli won’t get extra money, no matter how much Berry raises, according to the City Clerk’s Office. In 2011, a federal lawsuit succeeded in knocking down the “matching funds” section of City Hall’s public-financing system.

The third candidate in the mayoral race, Paul Heh, reported about $5,000 in cash contributions.

A significant source of spending this fall could come from independent groups, known under city rules as “measure finance committees.” They can spend as much as they want as long as they report it to the clerk.

A group called Duke City Rising, for example, reported about $18,000 in contributions, mostly from labor unions.

Brian Morris, chairman of Duke City Rising, said the committee doesn’t plan to endorse a candidate, but he mentioned a desire to offset Berry’s fundraising.

“We have a lot of concerns about the huge amount of money that’s coming in and voters getting a lopsided message,” he said in an interview.

Duke City Rising will engage in voter-education efforts about the economy and other topics, Morris said.

Election Day is Oct. 8. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election for the top two vote-getters will follow in November.

Berry, a Republican, is wrapping up his first four-year term. Dinelli, a Democrat, is an attorney and former chief public-safety officer at City Hall.

Heh is a Republican and retired police sergeant.

Dinelli has filed an ethics complaint alleging that some of Berry’s fundraising violated city rules – a charge Berry’s campaign strongly disputes – and an ethics hearing on the issue is scheduled for later this summer.

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