PAC backing Keller outraises rivals in August

From left Eddy Aragon, Manuel Gonzales and Tim Keller

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Third-party fundraising for Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ Albuquerque mayoral candidacy has slowed considerably in the last month, while political action committee contributions for incumbent Tim Keller’s reelection bid have accelerated.

Save Our City, a PAC backing Gonzales, still has more cash on hand ($92,003) than the Build Back ‘Burque committee working to keep Keller in office ($51,770), but the latest campaign finance reports show the tide turned in August.

While Save Our City had in some previous reporting periods raised three to five times as much as Build Back ‘Burque, reports show the opposite occurred between Aug. 3 and Sept. 6. The Keller PAC brought in $42,408 compared to $12,672 for the Gonzales effort.

The shift occurred at the same time Gonzales waged a high-profile legal battle over how to pay for his own campaign.

Gonzales and Keller both sought to run on public financing – which severely restricts how much their campaigns can raise from private donors – but only Keller received the taxpayer-funded pot worth over $600,000.

City Clerk Ethan Watson has twice declined to certify Gonzales for the money, citing rules violations during the qualifying process. Gonzales has continued to fight for the public funds – rather than switch to a privately funded campaign – via a series of legal filings and proceedings, leaving him with little available funding.

Currently, Gonzales has $20,830 in his campaign coffers compared to Keller’s $524,710, according to the reports.

Radio station owner and talk show host Eddy Aragon, who entered the mayor’s race about a month ago, is running a privately funded campaign. He raised $31,936 in the most recent reporting period, documents show, and has $13,360 remaining after expenses, according to his report.

With the election now less than two months away, a few new PACs have emerged and filed their first reports.

They include NM For Art & Sport, a committee supporting a $50 million city stadium bond on the Nov. 2 ballot. It raised $35,000 last month – all of it from New Mexico United, the second-tier professional soccer team that would be the stadium’s primary tenant. United also contributed $6,000 worth of in-kind “communication, accounting, media and outreach services.” The PAC is chaired by United’s communications director, David Carl.

ABQ Workers First – fundraising to defeat Gonzales and Albuquerque City Council candidates Dan Lewis, Renee Grout and Louie Sanchez – also recently entered the action. It reported raising $30,000 in the last month, all in a single contribution from the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL CIO.

• The Keller campaign’s largest expense was $59,331 with campaign manager Neri Holguin’s consulting firm.

• The Gonzales campaign’s largest expense was $12,277 with political and media strategist Jay McClesky’s firm.

• The Gonzales campaign spent $3,750 with a Missouri-based firm for a “research report on Mayor Timothy M. Keller.”

• Gonzales’ campaign – despite months of legal wrangling over public campaign financing – has for the second straight month reported no spending on attorneys or receiving any in-kind legal services. The campaign says it has not received legal bills yet given the attorneys’ ongoing work, but will fully report all related expenditures eventually.

• Keller reported $35,470 worth of in-kind services, including $2,500 in private investigator services, $17,970 from lawyer Lauren Keefe and $15,000 worth of rent from Ed Garcia’s company.

• Aragon’s largest contributor was Matthew Monte, who gave $2,000. His largest expenditures were two T-shirt orders totalling $10,713

• Top donors to the Keller-supporting Build Back ‘Burque include Ace Metals and Kimberly Rael – wife of current city chief operating officer Lawrence Rael – who each gave $5,000. The PAC spent the most money this period on campaign consulting from Maryland-based New Blue Interactive.

• Save Our City received its largest contributions from Don Bassard, Robyn Hendrexson and Richard Luna, who gave $2,000 each. The Gonzales-backing PAC spent $17,850 on media production and ad buys through Three Point Media.

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