ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque mayoral candidate Ricardo Chaves had a tough time during Tuesday night’s mayoral forum, tripping over his own words and at times appearing flustered; his campaign attributed the poor performance to Chaves being distracted by “death threats he has received this past weekend.”
Chaves’ campaign issued a news release early Wednesday morning acknowledging that he was “a bit off” during the Tea Party forum, and stating that police are investigating the threats, which were deemed to be “credible.” According to the release — issued three-and-a-half hours after the forum had ended — the death threats were accompanied by “threats to steal his car and extort thousands of dollars from him.”
“We suggested to Ricardo that he pull out of the forum, but he insisted on participating and not breaking his pledge to show up for this important event, which was admirable,” campaign manager Bob Cornelius said in the release. According to the campaign, Chaves was asked to not remain at his home for several days while police investigated the threats.
Chaves, founder of Parking Company of America, has had his vehicle stolen before.
During Tuesday’s forum, which was moderated by the League of Women Voters, Chaves, 81, ran into trouble within moments of taking the microphone for the first time.
“I’m running for mayor to help save Albuquerque,” he said, before pausing for several seconds. “I have been a businessman my entire life, and I, um, and I have.”
After another long pause, Chaves asked, “Why am, why am I nervous?”
He then continued, “And I founded a family owned business. I’ve managed um, um, I’ve, businesses, I’ve managed employees and, and my family has been here 14 generations.”
He recovered after that, telling the audience that he was born in Albuquerque and has a deep love for the city.
“I’m running for three reasons: First, to restore safety and security. That’s No. 1. No. 2 is to rescue our economy, and No. 3 is to reduce the size of government,” he said. He pledged to cut the city budget by 10 percent his first year in office.
The rest of the evening was hit and miss for Chaves.
In response to another question, he referred to Google as a “big bad company.”
The moderator asked candidates their positions on merging the city’s police and fire services with Bernalillo County’s public safety departments.
“I am totally opposed to merging one bad company with, one bad department with one good department,” Chaves said. “You end up with one big bad department. In business you never, ever merge a good company with a bad company because then you get a big bad company like Google. I would, I would consider merging them when you have two departments that are being run well, then I would consider merging because there are, there are a lot of savings that can be done when you have two, two good companies, two good companies merging. Thank you.”
In response to a question about how candidates feel about Albuquerque’s Heading Home program, an initiative to provide housing for the most vulnerable homeless people, Chaves said his office is “right in the middle of homeless downtown.”
“You see these people that need medical care,” he added. “They’re all, they’re dope addicts and they need help and the city hasn’t done anything for them. You know, it seems to me like they could pick them up and put them in some kind of shelter or something. …”
All eight mayoral candidates were present at Tuesday’s forum. While there have been a number of mayoral forums held since March, Chaves has missed several of them. He only jumped into the mayor’s race in April.
Chaves, a Republican, has already lent his campaign $500,000.