SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s been a tough mayor’s race to watch this year. And the best bet is that many Santa Feans remain undecided even now. All three candidates are personable, have long records in public life and have respected community leaders in their camps. But the 2014 campaign has become, for better or worse, mostly about the campaign.
Political action committee organizers supporting former state Democratic Party chair Javier Gonzales haven’t been able to resist jumping big into what most of us believed and hoped would be a level, publicly-financed campaign. And they’ve kept spending despite criticism that they are sullying the process and Gonzales’ protestations that he doesn’t want their help.
It now appears that pro-Gonzales public employee union groups will, on their own, spend nearly as much or more than the $60,000 in taxpayer dollars that each of the three mayoral candidates took to run their campaigns. Doomsday predictions that a major conservative player would send in big bucks to oppose Gonzales haven’t, as of this writing, panned out to justify the unions’ financial bombardment.
Curiously, almost none of their money has been spent here – the Working America AFL-CIO affiliate apparently can’t find any campaign workers in Santa Fe and is van-pooling them up from Albuquerque, while the face of a group called Santa Fe Working Families PAC is an Albuquerque political consultant.
This debacle, which includes to his detriment Gonzales’ inability to persuade his own supporters to stand down with an important public policy principle at stake, should be the death knell for public campaign financing in Santa Fe – as well as for Gonzales’ mayoral bid. As we’ve said before, use that public campaign money next time around for something meaningful, like fixing potholes.
Councilor Bill Dimas has made an appealing call for the city to get back to basics and concentrate on city services. He also has staked out the sensible position of reconsidering the required annual increases to the city’s local minimum wage, set to go to $10.66 Saturday and one of the nation’s highest. But Dimas bailed out of candidate forums where people could compare the three candidates. He said it was because the forums often are stages for planted questions intended to gig one candidate or promote another, but there were also a couple this year where journalists asked the questions. In any case, a mayoral candidate should engage his adversaries as well as preach to the choir he’s targeted for support.
And Dimas’ two quiet years on the council haven’t provided a clear picture of a leadership style or direction.
Then there’s Councilor Patti Bushee, criticized for being hard to work with and dithering on some issues. We, on the other hand, have long admired Bushee’s tendency to be the fly in the ointment on the council, seemingly unable to conform to any particular power clique and willing to push back against groupthink on items such as the questionable $3.6 million buyout of commercial space in the Railyard when developers blamed their problems on the city.
But her style isn’t right for mayor. Only one of her numerous colleagues from her two decades on the council has come forward to support her for mayor, a position that requires cooperation and facilitation as well as a strong voice.
This year, the Journal is leaving it to the voters, without an endorsement in the race for mayor. Good luck out there.