Gregg Hull and Mike Williams will face off in a few weeks, when voters return to the polls for a runoff election and decide who will become the next mayor of Rio Rancho.
Both candidates sat down with the Observer for interviews last week. Hull received more votes than Williams in the first round of voting, but each candidate is confident he can prevail in the runoff.
“It was euphoric and depressing at the same time,” Hull said of the election results.
Hull was certainly excited to come out on top in the mayoral race, but he was disappointed to see the low voter turnout and to not capture 50 percent of the votes on Tuesday. He said about 100 first-time voters supported his campaign.
“I think we all need to be involved in the process of selecting our leadership,” Hull said.
“It’s the norm for Rio Rancho,” Williams said of the 12 percent turnout. He said he expects a 5 to 6 percent turnout in the runoff election.
“This is an apathetic town,” Williams said of the voters. “It’s very complacent here until something affects them personally.”
“We’ve got to start thinking about the city as being our home and our future and not just a place to hang up our hat after we get home from work,” said Jim Owen, who came in third place in the mayoral race, in a phone interview.
“I spent the last seven months working hard, meeting some really great people and even made a few new friends,” Morgan Braden, who finished in fourth place in the mayoral race, posted on Facebook. He said he experienced “the dirty side of politics” and will not run again.
The city should have offered more early voting locations, Hull said, since not everyone can travel to City Hall during business hours.
Hull said he really liked the candidate forum the Observer co-sponsored in February. “It really gave us the opportunity to get in front of a lot of people,” he said. “It allowed the people to sit there and really look at us and evaluate the differences.”
“I would love a debate between me and Mr. Hull,” Williams said. He said voters want to see a debate between the candidates. He said he would win the debate, because he has “the knowledge and the history and my opponent doesn’t.”
Hull said he has endorsements from state Rep. Jason Harper and the Rio Rancho Police and Communications Association.
Williams said Mayor Tom Swisstack and New Mexico Building Construction & Trades Council have endorsed him.
Owen said money most likely won the election. “This was probably the most expensive mayoral race in the history of the city.”
Hull said he will aggressively fundraise during the runoff election. Williams said he will collect more contributions, but Hull will remain in the lead with campaign funds.
With last week’s election results, Williams said the TEA Party has taken over the city council. But he expects the voters to elect new councilors in 2016 who will shift the balance of power.
“You will probably wind up, with the first time in history of the city, having six conservative councilors,” Owen said of the council for the next two years. “I think that bodes well for the city in the sense of financial standing; I think we’ll have some rational thinking going on.”