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Mayoral candidates offer stark differences

Mayoral candidates Tim Keller and Dan Lewis

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

When Albuquerque voters go to the polls to elect a new mayor next month, they will have a choice between two very different candidates.

State Auditor Tim Keller, a Democrat, supports sanctuary cities, opposes the Santolina development and says he would work with business owners and employee rights groups to come up with a workable sick leave policy for the city.

City Councilor Dan Lewis, a Republican, opposes sanctuary cities, supports Santolina, advocates for breaking up the Albuquerque Public Schools district and wants to judge the judges through scorecards.

Those are just some of the issues that set the two candidates apart.

Keller and Lewis were the top two candidates in the Oct. 3 city election, with Keller receiving 39 percent of the vote and Lewis getting nearly 23 percent. But because no candidate walked away with 50 percent, Keller and Lewis will now go head-to-head in a Nov. 14 runoff. Early voting starts Wednesday.

Among the fundamental differences between Keller and Lewis are their philosophies on tackling the city’s problems. On the campaign trail, Keller has made it clear that he will embrace fixes that the city can implement on its own – not solutions that require state lawmakers or others to act.

“We’re going to spend time listening and learning, and then we’re going to take action,” Keller said, pointing to such things as his plan to bolster after-school and summer activities for APS students.

“We are not going to wait any longer for the county or judges or anyone else to deal with our issues. And that kind of urgency and ownership and taking responsibility has been the hallmark of our campaign and will be the hallmark of our administration.”

Keller vs. LewisBy contrast, Lewis has proposed fixes that would require action from the Legislature or others.

He has argued for breaking up APS, calling it a “massive failing school district.” He said the district’s reputation costs the city millions of dollars every day. But splitting up APS would require action by the state Legislature.

Lewis has also advocated for reinstating the death penalty for child molesters and cop killers, something that would require action from state lawmakers and the governor. Same goes for his desire to tack on 10 years for violent felons caught using a firearm and his call for a three-strikes law targeting repeat offenders.

“I’m going to put the families and the people of this city before the criminals in this city,” Lewis said. “I’m not going to allow criminals in this city to have more rights and freedoms than law-abiding citizens.”

Keller and Lewis also come from very different backgrounds.

Keller, 39, was born and raised in Albuquerque and attended Catholic schools here from kindergarten through his senior year in high school. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance and art history from the University of Notre Dame and later obtained a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School.

He served as a business economist for various companies before becoming state auditor in 2015. He also served in the state Senate for about six years.

Lewis, 47, is an ordained Baptist minister who was born in San Jose, Calif., but moved around a lot as a kid. He earned his undergraduate degree at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and later earned his master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

He moved to Albuquerque with his wife and daughter in 1996 to work with First Baptist Church. He and his wife, Tracy, later started Soul Rio Church.

Lewis also started two small businesses and has served on the City Council for eight years. He currently serves as vice president of Desert Fuels, a wholesale fuel supplier, and president of Desert Fuels Transport LLC., a division he started.

“Tim Keller, I believe, wants the best for this city and he cares about this city. And we’re friends,” Lewis said. “We just have vastly different records on crime and jobs and our vision for how this city can thrive. We have very different visions for how our city will look in the next few years and how we get there.”

Keller said he and Lewis agree that addressing the city’s crime problem is the priority.

“I’ve been working with folks in law enforcement and in fire,” Keller said, “and thanks to their endorsement for our campaign, we are coming in with a plan that has some teeth to it and that folks are already aligned around . . . and I think that’s going to allow us to move fast as opposed to having to start from scratch.”

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