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Albuquerque’s latest mayoral debate turned ugly Tuesday when Manuel Gonzales asked incumbent Tim Keller how he could be trusted to fight crime, citing rumors that Keller is having an affair with a subordinate and had city employees cover up a domestic violence incident.
Keller responded by vigorously denying the allegations and accusing Gonzales of a defamatory and “pathetic” political stunt.
“There’s literally nothing behind anything that you’re saying – like, you’re just saying words that you saw on social media,” Keller said.
The Journal has seen no proof and has been unable to substantiate allegations that the mayor was having an affair or was involved in a domestic violence incident.
The exchange occurred during a KOB-TV debate that touched on crime, homelessness, the economy and the future of the city’s Juan de Oñate sculpture. Moderators gave candidates Keller, Gonzales and radio host Eddy Aragon a chance to ask one of their opponents a question. Gonzales, the Bernalillo County sheriff, chose to ask Keller about accountability, launching into a list of what he called “serious misconduct” allegations.
“Allegations of your own domestic violence incident being covered up by high-ranking city officials. Another allegation of a high-ranking city official who was driving drunk, and was involved in driving a city vehicle and involved in a crash. And the third is also you having allegations of having an affair with a city subordinate,” Gonzales said. “How can the public trust you to fight crime in Albuquerque when you can’t even fight crime at City Hall?”
Keller called it a “disgusting” question, saying he’s never been involved in anything Gonzales mentioned.
“If you’re just going to make your questions the gossip on Twitter and on Facebook, I mean I hear all sorts of stuff about everyone all the time and I don’t … dignify it, because I don’t believe it, because there’s no evidence or truth behind any of it,” Keller said. “This is coming from a guy who just has a litany of myths and mistruths that he says.”
Rumors have swirled for months on social media about police covering up a domestic violence response at Keller’s home and about an alleged affair Keller is having with a city employee.
Keller has previously denied the allegations in an interview with Journal reporters. A Journal public records request earlier this year seeking police incident reports and dispatch records for Keller’s home address since Jan. 1 yielded only a few calls around Jan. 6 – the date of the U.S. Capitol insurrection – in which there were reported threats to the home. Records show officers kept watch throughout their shift and found the home was secure. There were no other records.
People who have raised the allegations with the Journal have provided no proof. At the time the rumors surfaced, the police union president – who has been critical of the Keller administration – told the Journal he had no documents to substantiate them.
After Tuesday’s debate, Gonzales’ campaign manager Shannan Calland said in a statement the allegations are serious enough to come up in the debate.
“We have spoken to two high-ranking members of the Albuquerque Police Department with direct knowledge of the domestic incident stemming from the sexual harassment scandal and are awaiting IPRA responses based on that information (which we expect to be intentionally covered up until after election),” she wrote. The statement included the phrase in parentheses. IPRA refers to the state’s public records law.
But Keller campaign manager Neri Holguin said that Gonzales is acting desperate.
“Manny doubled down on his record of outrageous lies tonight with a disgusting, false attack on the Mayor’s family and the integrity of police officers,” she said. “We’re appalled by these tactics, but not surprised Manny is so desperate, with no record to run on, all he has is internet conspiracy theories.”