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City Certifying Signatures for Mayor's Race Financing

By Dan McKay
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Three experienced candidates are lined up to draw public financing this year in Albuquerque's historic mayoral race, the first time the city has offered taxpayer-backed campaigns.
        State Rep. Richard "R.J." Berry and former state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero moved tantalizingly close late Friday to having enough qualifying contributions to win $328,000 in public funding. They have until Tuesday to submit the required 3,287 signatures and contributions of $5 apiece.
        Incumbent Martin Chávez cleared that hurdle two weeks ago, although he hasn't officially announced that he'll run.
        Five other candidates are also campaigning, but they aren't seeking public funds and haven't held a major elected office before.
        City Clerk Randy Autio said he will certify officially next week whether Berry and Romero have qualified for public financing of their campaigns. That decision can be appealed to a city hearing officer.
        "We're working overtime to get all these things verified," Autio said. "It's just a big chunk of work."
        Berry, a Republican, has submitted in the neighborhood of 3,574 signatures and contributions. Precise figures weren't available because the clerk's staff was still examining them.
        So far, about 10 percent of Berry's submissions have been rejected as invalid — because of an address problem or something like that — so that would leave Berry about 70 short of the requirement heading into the Tuesday deadline.
        Romero, a Democrat, is on slightly better footing so far. His campaign has submitted in the neighborhood of 3,983 signatures and contributions. About 13 percent of his are being rejected, meaning he probably has more than enough already to qualify.
        Autio will certify the mayoral candidates eligible for city funds on Thursday, then distribute the money on Friday. But his decisions can be appealed if someone challenges the validity of the signatures and contributions his staff has accepted.
        Even after qualifying for public funds, the three candidates must secure enough petition signatures to win a spot on the ballot. Five candidates are trying to get on the ballot without seeking public funds: developer Rob Dickson, activist Donna Rowe, Rudy Serrano, businessman James Thomas and Timothy Krenik.
        Candidates need more than 6,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
        Election Day is Oct. 6. If no candidates gets 40 percent of the vote, the top two will compete in a runoff in late November.
        The election is nonpartisan, meaning party affiliation won't appear on the ballot.
        Chávez, a Democrat, is in his third term as mayor.

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