Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The widower of an Albuquerque homicide victim has waded into the 2021 city election with a new political action committee he said he hopes can help oust Mayor Tim Keller.
Sam Vigil, whose wife, Jacqueline, was fatally shot in the couple’s driveway in 2019, is chairman of the Save Our City committee, which is intended “to address the serious crime and leadership problem in Albuquerque,” according to its registration form filed with the Albuquerque city clerk.
Vigil said in an interview this week that he is scared of Albuquerque crime, and “something has to be done.” He said he views Keller – who is seeking a second term in the Nov. 2 election – as the “leadership problem.” And unless Keller makes dramatic policy changes, Vigil sees unseating the mayor as the committee’s central purpose.
“I haven’t talked to the rest of the committee, but that’s my personal preference right now,” Vigil said.
Vigil is presently suing the city, including Keller. His lawsuit blames Albuquerque’s “sanctuary city” policy, which prohibits local police from coordinating with federal immigration officials, for his wife’s death. The man charged in Jacqueline’s death, Luis Talamantes-Romero of Mexico, had reentered the U.S. illegally and was suspected of being involved in a separate shooting incident the month before allegedly killing Jacqueline. Albuquerque police did not file a criminal complaint or make any arrests in the earlier shooting incident – during which two people shot at a dwelling and pursued and shot at a car driven by a young man who was not injured.
Vigil’s suit alleges APD took no steps to apprehend Talamantes-Romero for that shooting and “did not inform federal law enforcement that Talamantes-Romero or (fellow suspect Eduardo) Aguilar had illegally re-entered the country and committed multiple felony offenses.”
The Albuquerque City Council passed the city’s prevailing “immigrant friendly” policy in April 2018 – which Keller subsequently signed – but Vigil said the new political action committee has no plans yet to oppose specific council candidates in the 2021 election.
Keller’s campaign manager disputed Vigil’s assessment of the mayor’s leadership. She said Keller’s administration worked to ensure law enforcement identified, tracked down and arrested Talamantes-Romero and that Keller has helped the city persevere through turmoil.
“This last year, the Mayor showed nothing less than strong leadership in crisis,” Neri Holguin said in a statement. “The pandemic, unrest and national crime trends our city experienced was unparalleled. Much of our comeback today is a result of the Mayor’s decisive action and management of Albuquerque.”
The Save Our City committee – for which an Albuquerque Republican state legislator, Rep. Bill Rehm, serves as treasurer – is not yet backing a particular Keller challenger, Vigil said.
Three people have filed candidate registration forms for the mayoral race: Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, 25-year-old activist Nicholas Bevins, and Patrick Ben Sais.
Vigil said he knows Gonzales since both were in Washington, D.C., last summer. Vigil took part in then-President Donald Trump’s news conference about the Operation Legend crime-fighting initiative, while Gonzales was invited to meet with Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr.
Vigil recently appeared on Gonzales’ video series “Inside the Sheriff’s Office.” In the episode released last month, Vigil spoke about his wife’s death and the frustration of feeling that it could have been prevented. He also praised Gonzales.
“There has to be individuals like yourself, Manny, that really care about the community, that don’t just want to do a photo op and go out to different activities that might be happening throughout the city but never really pay attention to what’s really wrong with the community,” Vigil said in the episode.
Vigil said that is the last time he had spoken to Gonzales and that he has not talked to the sheriff about his mayoral campaign.
Vigil said he has never had a political action committee before, but he has been involved in political events. He spoke in support of Trump during the 2020 Republican National Convention.