Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Switching from public financing to private campaign financing has been a boon for Albuquerque City Council hopeful Brook Bassan.
The District 4 candidate abandoned public financing after the Nov. 5 election, opting instead to pursue private donations while waging a runoff battle with Ane Romero.
The runoff is set for Tuesday, though early voting continues through Saturday.
Bassan collected $41,255 in donations between Nov. 9 and 22, campaign finance reports show.
That is more than the entire public grant she had to work with during the five-month lead-up to the Nov. 5 election.
Romero, who has continued to run on public financing, received a $12,909 grant on Nov. 8 and is prohibited from taking individual donor cash.
But Bassan said it is the political action committees backing Romero that compelled her to change her financing strategy.
“Given the massive amount of campaign spending by these outside special interest groups for my opponent, I had no choice but to seek voluntary contributions to ensure that I could effectively communicate my message to voters,” Bassan said in a written statement.
Three committees have combined to spend $20,614 during the runoff season to either support Romero or defeat Bassan, according to financial disclosures. The biggest contributions came from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a carpenters union and the Democratic Party of New Mexico.
Another two committees have spent about $1,600 spread among multiple Democratic candidates, including Romero, during the runoff election.
Those totals do not include any political action committee support Romero received prior to the Nov. 5 election.
City rules restrict coordination between publicly financed candidates and such committees, meaning Romero’s official campaign has about one-third of the runoff cash as Bassan’s.
Romero, however, remains committed to public financing. She said it demonstrates she is “fiscally responsible,” while accusing Bassan of “flip-flopping” by opting out of public financing and for changing her political party – something she did as recently as May.
“Consistency and integrity matter to me. For the past seven months, I have heard what voters have to say and they are tired of politicians saying one thing and doing another,” Romero said in a statement.
Both Bassan, a Republican, and Romero, a Democrat, started their City Council bids with public financing. Each received about $39,000 distributions in June to power their campaign through the Nov. 5 election. A third candidate, Athena Christodoulou, ran on private donations.
When none of the three reached the 50% vote threshold required to win the seat, Bassan and Romero – the top two finishers – proceeded to a Dec. 10 runoff.
Bassan soon opted out of public financing and instead began taking private contributions.
Some of her biggest contributors include local real estate developer Steve Maestas, Wise Choice Foods (a company whose registered agent is WisePies co-founder Steve Chavez), Territorial Scaffold Inc. and the New Mexico Association of Realtors. Each has given $1,500 to Bassan’s runoff effort.
Both candidates in the District 2 City Council runoff, Isaac Benton and Zack Quintero, are continuing with public financing, though political action committees have poured money into their runoff as well – with at least three committees spending $16,000 in support of Benton or against Quintero so far.
A total of 6,957 voters – about 8% of those registered in the two districts – have already voted early or via absentee ballot in this year’s runoff, according to the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office.
Those waiting for Election Day can visit one of 10 voting centers open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday.