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Diane Gibson wins District 7 City Council runoff race

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The partisan scales have tipped at the Albuquerque City Council thanks to a squeaker of a runoff victory in the city’s District 7 to give Democrats the majority on the nine-member council.

Diane Gibson, a Democrat and former machinist at Sandia National Laboratories, will become the district’s city councilor after she won 52 percent of the vote over Republican Janice Arnold-Jones, who has been the city councilor there for seven months after being appointed by Mayor Richard Berry.

The victory gives Democrats five seats on the City Council. Republicans had held a 6-3 majority, but Democrats won two seats this election cycle to take a majority.

Besides Gibson’s victory Tuesday, Democrat Isaac Benton beat Republican Roxanna Meyers in last month’s city election. That may make the council a bit less friendly to the legislative priorities of Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican.

Gibson’s victory would have been impossible if it weren’t for a 76-vote shortfall of more than 10,000 cast in the general election in Oct. 8. Arnold-Jones won just 49.2 percent of the vote, less than 1 percent short of the requisite 50 percent that would have given her an outright victory.

Neither candidate could be reached after the results came in late Tuesday night.

Gibson said earlier in the evening that she intended to work on a variety of issues as a city councilor. She hopes to address Albuquerque’s economy, job losses and public safety.

“I’m very pleased with the efforts we’ve put forth,” Gibson said. “I’ve had an incredible staff.”

Arnold-Jones, also reached before polls closed Tuesday, said she might return to the private sector. She said she was optimistic about her chances but acknowledged that much of the election was up in the air Tuesday afternoon, and she said the proposed 20-week abortion ban added another element of surprise into the election.

“I’d be fibbing if I told you we know what the unknown was,” she said. ” … There’s no doubt that the Pain Capable Unborn Child Ordinance is changing the face of the election.”

Arnold-Jones had nearly 400 more absentee votes than Gibson, but Gibson’s Election Day and early vote totals are what gave her the seat. Gibson had nearly 600 more early votes and over 100 election-day votes more than her opponent.

Gibson received public financing for her campaign and won the runoff despite being outspent by Arnold-Jones several times over. Gibson said she and her staff were thrifty in their spending choices and even recycled old campaign signs from past elections to maintain awareness of her candidacy.

Because of her loss, Arnold-Jones will have to surrender the City Council seat she got in April after the sudden resignation of former Councilor Michael Cook. Mayor Berry appointed Arnold-Jones to take over the seat, at least until the October election.

Cook resigned after being arrested in early April under suspicion of drunken driving. He was later found not guilty of the charges after the judge deemed the stop unconstitutional.

District 7 takes up a huge chunk of the city, mostly in Northeast Albuquerque between Interstate 25 and Eubank Boulevard, and between Montgomery and Lomas boulevards.

City elections are officially nonpartisan, meaning there are no primary elections and party affiliation doesn’t appear on the ballot.

Arnold-Jones, who served four terms in the state Legislature, ran for the 1st District congressional seat last year but was defeated by Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Gibson said she hopes to boost Albuquerque’s economy by using bonds to replace aging infrastructure, filling city positions and trying to attract small businesses.

Arnold-Jones, who announced she was running for the seat immediately after being appointed, said her experience as the current councilor gave her a leg up on the competition, and she touted her dedication to constituent services and business experience as reasons voters should give her the job.

 

DIANE G. GIBSON 0 629 3,929 4,558 50.80%
JANICE E. ARNOLD-JONES 0 1,039 3,375 4,414 49.20%
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