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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State Auditor Tim Keller and City Councilor Dan Lewis came out at the top of the heap in Tuesday’s crowded race for mayor, headed to a runoff that will determine Albuquerque’s next mayor.
Keller, a Democrat, had 39 percent of the vote while Lewis, a Republican, had nearly 23 percent in unofficial returns Tuesday night.
Attorney and former Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colón, who raised more than $825,000 for his run — far more money than any other candidate in the race — was in third place, with 16 percent.
Voter turnout for Tuesday’s race was 29 percent, exceeding the 2013 turnout which was 20 percent. It’s the first time in 20 years that an incumbent wasn’t on the ballot in the mayor’s race.
“We would have been grateful for one vote above everyone else,” Keller told reporters late Tuesday night, as he celebrated with family and supporters at Red Door Brewing Co. in Downtown Albuquerque. “We were hoping for 33 (percent)… It is a testament to our vision. It’s a testament to everyone here tonight. Thank you so much.”
Keller said that from the beginning, he focused on specifics on how to attack crime and invest in small business. He said he was thankful for everyone who came together around his campaign, including the police and firefighter unions.
Lewis, meanwhile, monitored election returns with his supporters at Flix Brewhouse on the West Side.
“I entered this race because I’m committed to helping the city of Albuquerque succeed, and that’s why we’re here tonight,” he said. “We’re going to lead this city to thrive and be the city that we know it can be, a city of opportunity not defined by criminals.”
The runoff is set for Nov. 14. The new mayor takes office Dec. 1.
City races are nonpartisan, meaning that party affiliation doesn’t appear on the ballot.
A runoff is required when no mayoral candidate secures 50 percent of the vote. Albuquerque hasn’t had a mayoral runoff since 1993, when Martin Chávez narrowly defeated David Cargo.
While the names of eight mayoral candidates appeared on the ballot, one of those candidates, Republican businessman Ricardo Chaves, pulled out of the race last week and threw his support behind Lewis.
The other four candidates were Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican; Democrat Gus Pedrotty, a recent University of New Mexico graduate; and independents Michelle Garcia Holmes, a former chief of staff for the state attorney general and a retired Albuquerque police detective; and Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, co-founder of the civic group Urban ABQ.
Johnson had close to 10 percent of the vote, while Pedrotty had received close to 7 percent. Garcia Holmes and Wheeler-Deichsel received close to 4 percent and less than 1 percent, respectively, and Chaves, whose name was still on the ballot, also had less than 1 percent.
Dominating this year’s mayoral race was voter concern about crime. In a recent Journal Poll, 69 percent of likely voters identified crime as their top issue, and 99 percent of those surveyed said crime is a very serious or somewhat serious problem.
FBI statistics released last week showed that homicides in Albuquerque increased by 41.8 percent in 2016, while auto thefts in the city jumped by almost 50 percent over 2015 figures.
Voters were approving the public safety bond by a 3-to-1 ratio.
Responding to those concerns, all eight mayoral candidates on the ballot pledged to bring in a new police chief and hire more police officers.
Keller, a former state senator who received the coveted endorsement of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, has promised to hire 400 additional officers, make Albuquerque Police Department wages competitive, and launch an aggressive recruiting effort.
He was the only publicly financed candidate in the race and racked up numerous endorsements, including from the Albuquerque firefighters’ union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18.
But Keller was also hit with attack ads toward the end of the campaign by a political action committee financed, in part, by the owners of the Santolina development.
Lewis, who raised $550,000 for his mayoral run, fought hard to distance himself from Mayor Richard Berry, a fellow Republican.
An ordained Baptist minister, Lewis says APD should have 1,200 officers; it currently has about 850. He has said he would immediately push for a $15 million increase in APD’s budget and institute aggressive pay raises for officers. And he has promised to develop a scorecard by which voters can “judge the judges” on their decisions to release or keep “dangerous and repeat criminals” in jail.
Lewis, the only mayoral candidate to be endorsed by the National Rifle Association, was also hit with attack ads in the closing days of the election. The ads, produced by the Johnson campaign, likened Lewis to Barney Fife, a character in “The Andy Griffiths” show of decades past.