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Student, lawyer and progressive vie in SE Heights

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

A new face will join the City Council later this year to represent the heart of the Southeast Heights.

Three candidates – all new to elected office – are campaigning to succeed Rey Garduño, a Democrat who’s retiring after two terms representing District 6.

Whoever wins the seat will inherit a district that stretches roughly from the University of New Mexico to Eubank Boulevard, between Lomas and Kirtland Air Force Base.

It’s a diverse area that includes Nob Hill, the International District, the fairgrounds and the Southeast Heights.

On the ballot are:

  • Pat Davis, 37, a Democrat and executive director of the group ProgressNow New Mexico, which advocates progressive issues and policies.
  • Sam Kerwin, 22, a Democrat and student at UNM.
  • Hess “Hessito” Yntema, 28, a Republican and attorney for the state General Services Department.

Council control

The race could determine which party holds a majority of seats on the City Council. Democrats now have a 5-4 edge, but Republicans could take control if they hold onto District 4 – where incumbent Brad Winter faces Democrat Israel Chávez – and win the open seat in District 6.

That would put Republicans in charge of both the council and the Mayor’s Office, where Richard Berry is serving his second term.

Democrats, by contrast, could win enough seats to override mayoral vetoes – a 6-3 edge – if they win in District 6 and defeat Winter in District 4.

Nob Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods of District 6 are among the most liberal in the city, and Democrats have held the district for about a dozen years – since Yntema’s father, also a Republican, represented the area.

The elder Yntema was an independent sort – conservative on budget and fiscal matters, but often siding with Democrats on environmental issues.

In any case, Albuquerque municipal elections are nonpartisan, meaning party affiliation won’t appear on the ballot. If no one wins a majority of the vote, the top two candidates will compete in a runoff election in November.


The candidates are divided on Mayor Berry’s proposal for a bus rapid transit system along Central Avenue, the backbone of the district.

The project would involve dedicating a lane of traffic solely to the new buses.

The Berry administration hopes to secure about $80 million in federal funds to pay for the $100 million project. The operating cost would be about $2 million a year, though federal funds might be available for that, too, in the early years.

Yntema and Kerwin are critical of the idea – Yntema for its cost, Kerwin because he wants to improve the traditional bus service instead.

Davis supports the concept in general, although he said the city must communicate better with the businesses along the route and tailor the design to address their concerns.

The candidates are also divided on the ballot measure that would impose a new gross receipts tax to raise money for the BioPark. Davis and Yntema support it, and Kerwin said in a Journal questionnaire that he supports “no new taxes.”

Each candidate points to his own background as a strength.

Davis worked as a police officer in Washington, D.C., and at UNM – experience he says would be valuable as the city carries out federally mandated reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department and the recruiting of new officers.

“APD reform is going to be the central tenet of what the next council is going to work on,” Davis said in an interview.

Yntema, meanwhile, points to his legal background as an asset. He has worked as a prosecutor and assistant city attorney – experience he says gives him insight not only into weaknesses in the system for civilian oversight of APD, but also the crafting of legislation.

“I’ve actually seen the process at City Hall and how the APD interacts with other agencies like the district attorney and public defenders,” he said.

Kerwin, for his part, said he’s spent his entire life in District 6. “I’m very familiar with the problems in this part of town,” he said.

It’s been an aggressive campaign already and may turn more negative as Election Day approaches. Davis, for example, was arrested on a drunken driving charge two years ago – he later pleaded guilty – and his critics have mentioned the arrest in anonymous, automated telephone calls to people in the district, according to his campaign.

As for fundraising, Davis qualified for public financing – a process that required him to gather $5 contributions from at least 1 percent of the registered voters in his district, or about 370 people. He received nearly $37,000 in city funding for his campaign.

Yntema had raised about $21,000 through Sept. 10. Kerwin had raised about $2,000.



a01_jd_24sep_davisAGE: 37

EDUCATION: Master of criminal justice, New Mexico State University, 2009; FBI National Academy, certificate in law enforcement education (in partnership with the University of Virginia), 2006; bachelor of science in political science, Berry College, 2000.

OCCUPATION: Executive director/founder, ProgressNow New Mexico, 2011-present; chief marketing officer, Sutin Thayer & Browne, 2011; public information officer, Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, 2009-­11; police lieutenant, University of New Mexico Police Department, 2005-09; police officer, Metropolitan Police, Washington, D.C., 2002-05; police officer, U.S. Capitol Police, Washington, D.C., 2000-02.

FAMILY: Not married but partnered with boyfriend, Christopher.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Democratic Party of New Mexico, State Central Committee member, 2011-13; Democratic Party of Bernalillo County, Ward 19C chairman, 2011-13.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Founding and growing ProgressNow N.M. from a one-­person startup to the state’s largest progressive advocacy organization has been my most difficult and rewarding challenge. I’ve developed a strong appreciation for the challenges of running and growing small businesses.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Politics is too often about what we can’t do instead of what we should. I’m proud of my reputation for taking on tough fights that make a difference —­ like minimum wage, equal pay and women’s health care.




a01_jd_24sep_kerwinAGE: 22

EDUCATION: University of New Mexico, double majoring in journalism and American studies.

OCCUPATION: Student, artist

FAMILY: Bachelor


MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Last summer, I helped create and install a mosaic around the Juan Tabo Library. I have also helped the students of Pajarito Elementary paint two murals on the side of their school.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I’ve been a good neighbor. I served as a leader of the Fair West Fusion youth group. I’ve helped my neighbors complete home projects, shared fruit and vegetables from my garden, and helped produce a community Christmas play.




a01_jd_24sep_yntemaAGE: 28

EDUCATION: Juris doctor (law degree), University of Michigan Law School, 2013; bachelor of arts, Harvard University, 2009, in Earth and planetary sciences.

OCCUPATION: Attorney, 2014-present; geologist, 2009-10.

FAMILY: Wife, Sally Yntema; no children.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Currently I work at the State Risk Management office; assistant city attorney, 2015; assistant district attorney, 2nd Judicial District (Bernalillo County), 2014-15.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: My career as an attorney began in 2014. I have worked as a prosecutor, with several successful prosecutions. At the city, I worked with the Charter Review Commission and the recent animal control review.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Marrying Sally in January this year.

Questions for the candidates

1. What steps should the City Council take to address problems in the police department?

Davis: For too long, APD has prioritized tactical response over community policing that prevents crime before it starts. Including community oversight up front ­— not simply judging after —­ ensures neighborhoods and officers are working from the same expectations.

Kerwin: The City Council should tie any increase in the police budget as well as police command bonuses to fulfillment of the DOJ reforms. I will put a beat cop in every neighborhood.

Yntema: We need to expeditiously implement the DOJ reforms. We especially need more, better-trained police officers on the street, and to improve our communication and coordination with the courts, the jail, and District Attorney’s Office.

2. What would be your approach to boosting the economy in Albuquerque?

Davis: My community policing and small-business experience taught me that the sooner perception and reality match that Albuquerque is a safe place to run a business, the faster we’ll create jobs. Businesses, customers and employees need to feel safe.

Kerwin: Support local business and invest in infill. Let’s give small subsidies to startups that choose to rent out of vacant storefronts on east Central. Let’s fill in dirt lots with small parks and urban farms.

Yntema: We should focus on providing good basic services with reasonable tax rates to keep Albuquerque safe, clean and attractive. Clarifying and simplifying rules affecting existing and new businesses is also a priority.

3. Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase? Do you support or oppose the ballot measure to impose a new tax for the BioPark?

Davis: Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have successfully leveraged special taxes for critical needs like mental health services. New taxes must be carefully considered and monitored to keep money in specified programs. I support the BioPark initiative.

Kerwin: No new taxes. The city has resources but is allocating them inefficiently. For instance, housing the homeless costs the city 31.6 percent less than paying for emergency bills generated by them living on the street.

Yntema: I could support a tax increase to maintain basic services, voter approval preferred. I support the BioPark measure, but want to address the long-term operational expenses not included as part of the ballot measure.

4. Please evaluate the performance of Mayor Richard Berry.

Davis: I do not feel like serious concerns regarding APD and public safety have been adequately addressed. That’s why I will prioritize a return to community policing to help prevent crime before it starts.

Kerwin: Berry has made great strides in addressing homelessness and early childhood education in Albuquerque. I look forward to working with him to fully fund these initiatives. Berry has flopped when it’s come to the police and public transit.

Yntema: Overall good. Relationships with the City Council need to be better. Our District 6 needs better relations with the mayor, and his administration should focus more on delivering quality basic services to the district.

5. Do you support the bus rapid transit project the mayor has proposed for Central Avenue?

Davis: BRT brings much-­needed streetscape improvements and connectivity along Central, but many small businesses operate on too small of a margin to survive construction. Right now, we can leverage opportunities to increase existing ridership and support local businesses.

Kerwin: Absolutely not. If the leadership were serious about investing in public transit, they would double the amount of buses along other high-use corridors instead of revamping the one street that already has decent bus times.

Yntema: Not as proposed. Constituents are highly skeptical. The proposal appears to dramatically decease parking availability in Nob Hill. Also, it is unclear how the city would be able to afford the long-term costs.

6. What differentiates you from your opponents?

Davis: Experience. While my opponents are still in school or recently graduated, I have a proven record in our community of building a nonprofit business from scratch and working on criminal justice issues for over 10 years.

Kerwin: Growing up here, I walked and biked these streets, and I still do today. It has given me an intimate sense of the problems in town. I have a street-level view of what needs fixing.

Yntema: I will provide prompt, courteous constituent service, regardless of party affiliation. I am bilingual (English/Spanish) and grew up in and know the district. My scientific and legal education will be helpful on the Council.

7. Name one issue not mentioned in a previous question that you would plan to tackle as city councilor.

Davis: Albuquerque’s equal pay ordinance encourages city contractors to achieve 90 percent pay equity for women. I will work with the original sponsors to build better data on all city companies, helping them achieve 100 percent pay equity.

Kerwin: The city of Albuquerque has proven that it can provide quality early childhood education, so why not continue to do so by opening five to 10 more preschools in strategic locations. Our children are our future.

Yntema: Basic infrastructure in District 6 is not getting the attention it deserves. In particular, we need to improve our electronic infrastructure, which appears weaker than in other comparable cities.

8. What is your position on the three proposed City Charter amendments — which would call for sending petition initiatives to voters in the next regular election rather than special elections, require that only titles and summaries be placed on the ballot when charter amendments are proposed, and require City Council approval for the appointment of police and fire chiefs?

Davis: Adding accountability to the council for the chiefs is critical to ensuring a return to community policing. I also support streamlining and simplifying city ballot initiatives to increase voter participation citywide.

Kerwin: As a culture of aggression continues to prevail over the Police Department it is important that more elected officials have oversight of the department.

Yntema: I support these proposals.

9. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

Davis: When I moved to New Mexico from Maryland, Maryland officials lacked my forwarding address for year-­end tax property taxes. The bill was promptly paid upon receipt.

Kerwin: No.

Yntema: No.

10. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

Davis: No.

Kerwin: No.

Yntema: No.

11. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

Davis: After spending 10 years taking bad guys off the streets as a police officer, a few years ago I drank too much and drove. I accepted responsibility immediately, and I’m grateful for the forgiveness of family and colleagues.

Kerwin: Well, yes, I have. In one such instance, I was protesting in the Occupy movement. The police targeted me as a leader of the movement; they arrested me for refusing to comply with an officer’s order.

Yntema: No.

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