With the mayoral election decided, there still are two important runoff elections that will determine the political balance of the Albuquerque City Council.
The nine-member City Council is undergoing a transformation unlike anything in recent years with four new members. Although technically city elections are non-partisan races, both the Democratic and Republican parties are playing roles in the runoffs.
Democrat incumbents Lan Sena and Cynthia Borrego were defeated in their reelection bids by Louie Sanchez, a moderate Democrat, and Dan Lewis, a Republican, respectively, who each got more than 50% of the vote. Democrat Diane Gibson and Republican Don Harris didn’t seek reelection, and it is their seats that are now in the runoff races.
Meanwhile, the five current members still on the council are Democrat Klarissa Pena who ran unopposed; Republicans Brook Bassan and Trudy Jones and Democrats Pat Davis and Isaac Benton, who will be up for reelection in 2023.
Early voting started this week; Election Day is Dec. 7.
Here are the Journal endorsements for the two runoff races:
In District 7, centered in the Uptown area, the Journal Editorial Board maintains its endorsement of Lori Robertson to fill Gibson’s seat.
Robertson, a Republican, is a real estate agent and, as such, has a first-hand understanding of Albuquerque’s housing crunch and soaring home prices. She says Albuquerque has a “hostile business environment” and she wants to change that by supporting business development.
Robertson says crime must be addressed and she wants to get the city out from under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice so officers can better focus on crime.
She says businesses and other property owners are bearing the brunt of police inaction, and she wants to see laws uniformly enforced and criminals arrested, while also offering services to help those who will accept help.
Robertson has raised four children in the district that stretches roughly from I-25 east to Eubank and Lomas north to Montgomery, so her roots in the community are deep. And, as a member of the board of a homeless shelter for teens, she can be a valuable voice on the council as the city moves forward with the 24/7 Gateway Center homeless shelter.
The Journal endorses Renee Grout, who has deep ties to the southeast Albuquerque district now represented by Harris.
Grout, a Republican, was born and raised in Albuquerque and, for 32 years, has owned a local auto shop in District 9, which straddles East Central, east of Eubank. The political newcomer says the decline of the district and city overall prompted her run, noting that crime and homelessness are out of control, and police need to be allowed to do their job.
“The criminal is running the show,” she told the Journal Editorial Board. “(The police) are afraid to do their job.”
Working at the shop daily, Grout says she deals with the homeless frequently — she says some have simply chosen street life as a job and she’s fed up by the open drug use (especially in front of children), indecent exposure, filth and trash, and rampant shoplifting. She says all deter business from locating in the area. “Albuquerque is a beautiful city, and then bam! on East Central,” she said.
Her deep community ties and business investment are strong attributes that would serve her and the city well. “I’m not a smooth-talking politician, either,” she says. “I listen really well. I learn a lot and ask questions.”
With the city at a crossroads, Robertson and Grout are two women who can offer the City Council business insight and straight talk as the city struggles with violent crime, homelessness and poverty. With the regular election winners, they can help ensure a robust check and balance to the mayoral administration’s second term.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.