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No boost in public campaign funds for 2017 mayor’s race

It doesn’t look like mayoral candidates who opt into public financing will get an extra financial boost in time to shape the 2017 mayoral race.

Albuquerque city councilors had hoped to add the public-financing question to the Feb. 7 ballot – when voters head to the polls for a Board of Education election. That would get the new system in place, if voters approved, in time for the Oct. 3 city election.

But officials say the deadline has passed to publish legal notices needed to combine a special city election with the school one.

The city had hoped to share the cost of the February election with Albuquerque Public Schools and Central New Mexico Community College, but they never reached an agreement.

City attorneys also questioned whether the city could waive its voter-identification requirements, which are more strict than what’s used in other elections.

The upshot is that mayoral candidates who qualify for public financing are likely to end up with about $379,000, or about $1 a voter, during next year’s campaign. The proposal to boost the funding would’ve given them about $663,000, or $1.75 per voter.

The smaller amount, of course, might persuade some candidates to avoid public financing and just raise their own money.

A strong candidate can raise roughly a million dollars. In 2013, for example, Mayor Richard Berry raised about $900,000, and his predecessor, Martin Chávez, raised $1.2 million in 2005. Each won his re-election campaign those years.

The Oct. 3 city ballot is set to include more than just mayoral candidates. Five City Council seats – the ones held by incumbents Ken Sanchez, Klarissa Peña, Dan Lewis, Diane Gibson and Don Harris – also will be on the ballot.

Sanchez and Lewis are potential mayoral candidates. They cannot run for re-election to the council and for mayor at the same time, so they would have to pick one or the other.

Also expected to be on the ballot are the public financing amendment, bond questions and the proposal to require employers to offer paid sick leave to workers.

The legal debate over the sick-leave ordinance, meanwhile, is continuing in state District Court. Judge Alan Malott ruled in September that the whole ordinance – not just a summary – had to appear on the ballot when it’s presented to voters.

But Healthy Workforce ABQ, a coalition of supporters, is asking Malott to reconsider. The length of the proposal means the city clerk might have to use a two-page ballot, increasing the risk of election problems, they say.

Dan McKay: