Voters in at least two Albuquerque City Council districts will need to return to the polls Dec. 7 to settle runoff elections.
Unofficial returns indicated two incumbent councilors were in trouble and Republicans are likely to cut into the Democrats’ 6-3 majority in the chamber.
A runoff election is required if no candidate wins at least 50% of votes. Runoffs will be needed in the races for District 7 and 9. Republican Dan Lewis was leading 52% to 40% over Councilor Cynthia Borrego, a Democrat, in the District 5 race late Tuesday.
Of nine City Council seats, five were up for grabs this year. But only four seats were competitive races.
District 3 City Councilor Klarissa Peña, 54, was unopposed this year. A Democrat with a business and community service background, Peña was first elected to the post in December 2013 and cruised to a second-term victory over one challenger in 2017.
In District 1, incumbent Lan Sena was trailing challenger Louie Sanchez, a retired Albuquerque Police Department officer. Sena had 45% of the vote to Sanchez’s 55%.
Sena, 31, a Democrat with a background in public health, was appointed to the council to fill out the term of Ken Sanchez, who died Jan. 1.
Louie Sanchez, 56, retired in 2014 as a lieutenant after a 26-year career with APD. Sanchez now operates two Allstate insurance offices.
Both Democratic candidates focused on crime as a top issue. District 1 lies on the West Side between Central and Montaño NW.
Sanchez said late Tuesday that his experience as a police officer pushed him to victory.
“I know officers, I know what their needs are having done it for years and years,” Sanchez said. “Having that experience makes a world of difference.”
District 5 City Councilor Cynthia Borrego was the other incumbent trailing late Tuesday.
Borrego, 64, a Democrat, was seeking a second term in a three-way race that included a challenge from Lewis, who held the seat from 2009 to 2017.
Lewis was holding onto a double-digit percentage-point lead late Tuesday.
The third candidate in the race was political newcomer Phillip Ramirez, 43, a construction project manager and Democrat.
“It looks good,” Lewis said of the vote at about 9 p.m. “I think clearly people aren’t happy with what’s been going on the last four year — in terms of representation on the West Side and what’s been going on in our city.”
District 7 was the most crowded contest. Six political newcomers were vying to succeed Diane Gibson, who announced in April that she would not seek a third term.
The runoff will be between Lori Robertson, 48, a real estate agent and Tammy Fiebelkorn, 51, who owns an environmental and business consulting firm. Robertson had earned 32% of the vote to Fiebelkorn’s 24%, according to unofficial returns.
No other candidate earned more than 15% of the vote.
Robertson was the lone GOP candidate in the field.
“I’m excited. We’re up there at the top and we’re moving forward,” Robertson said. “Statistically speaking, with six people in the race there’s no way you could get to 50%, so we were completely prepared for a runoff.”
District 7 is a Northeast Heights district between Interstate 25 and Eubank NE, and between Montgomery and Lomas NE.
In District 9, three candidates were trying to succeed Don Harris, a Republican who decided not to seek a fifth term after serving since 2005.
The race is likely headed to a runoff between the Republican candidate, Renee Grout, 60, who received 42% of the vote, and one of two Democratic candidates. Rob Grilley Jr., 37, earned 30% of the vote and Byron Powdrell, 54, had earned 28% of the vote, according to unofficial returns. There were fewer than 200 votes separating Grilley and Powdrell late Tuesday.
“It’s very exciting and very humbling,” Grout said.