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Campaign season starts for city races

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Campaign season has officially arrived in Albuquerque.

Candidates looking to run a publicly financed mayoral campaign can begin testing the waters this week – the first in a series of mile markers during a 2021 election cycle that will determine who occupies the mayor’s office and five city council seats starting in January. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Current Mayor Tim Keller already has said he plans to seek a second term and he confirmed Monday that he intends to seek public financing, though he has not made the formal declaration. That will likely happen later this month, he said.

As of Monday afternoon, no mayoral candidate had formally declared their intent to seek public financing with City Clerk Ethan Watson. They technically have until mid-June to do so.

To get the taxpayer-supported pot – which this year totals $661,309 – a mayoral candidate must demonstrate sufficient public interest in their candidacy by collecting $5 contributions from 1%, or 3,779, of city voters during a qualifying period that begins next month.

Starting this week, candidates can also begin one-on-one Zoom meetings with Watson to ask questions about the process. Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III – who has said previously he was considering a mayoral run – has a scheduled meeting, Watson confirmed Monday.

But Gonzales said in a written statement to the Journal Monday he was “not ready to offer any kind of official announcement” about whether he is running.

City council candidates have a slightly different campaign calendar. Those interested in public financing can begin their exploratory period April 25 and start collecting their $5 contributions in May.

The city’s three West Side districts (1, 3, 5), the Uptown district (7) and the city’s Southeastern-most district (9) are also on this year’s ballot.

Incumbents Lan Sena (1), Klarissa Peña (3) and Cynthia Borrego (5) all confirmed to the Journal they intend to run. District 9 Councilor Don Harris, meanwhile, announced he will not seek a fifth term.

It’s unclear if District 7 Councilor Diane Gibson will seek reelection.

Candidates for council and mayor can also run campaigns funded by private contributions.

Whether they choose the public or private financing route, all candidates must collect enough petition signatures to get on the ballot – 3,000 for mayoral candidates and 500 for the council.

Due to COVID-19, Watson on Monday announced new procedures that allow the candidates to collect those signatures online, while also permitting them to still gather them in person. The office is creating a new website, in collaboration with New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, that will use the Secretary of State’s voter registration database for verification purposes before allowing a signature.

The clerk’s office also is updating a second website that allows voters to make $5 contributions for candidates seeking public financing.

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