State Auditor Tim Keller jumped into Albuquerque’s mayoral race on Wednesday – the third candidate this week to launch a campaign to succeed Mayor Richard Berry.
Keller, a Democrat, said he will seek public financing – a process that involves gathering thousands of $5 donations to show his campaign is viable. If he succeeds, he will get about $379,000 to spend on his campaign, or $1 per registered voter in Albuquerque.
“For me,” he said, “it’s a chance to step up for my hometown.”
Keller, a former state senator from Albuquerque’s International District, said Albuquerque faces immense challenges – including crime rates, a police department undergoing a reform process, struggling schools and little job growth.
He said he would bring in a new leadership team for APD on “Day One” and push to expand the police force to 1,200 officers, a 42 percent increase over the roughly 850 now employed and about 200 more than a recent staffing study said were needed. He said he would push for decentralization of the police department by focusing more on APD’s substations or adding new ones.
Keller enters a campaign that could grow beyond a dozen candidates:
• Already in are Eddy Aragon, an independent and conservative talk show host of “The Rock of Talk” on 95.9 FM; former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta, a Democrat; Michelle Garcia Holmes, an independent and retired police detective; City Councilor Dan Lewis, a Republican; and Stella Padilla, a Democrat and retired Old Town resident.
• Brian Colón, an attorney and former state Democratic Party chairman, plans to announce his campaign later this month.
• County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican; Elan Colello, a Democrat and CEO of a virtual reality company; Scott Madison, a Democrat who works with the nuclear weapons program at Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories; and Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, an independent and founder of the civic group Urban ABQ, plan to announce in February.
• Also considering campaigns are former City Councilor and prosecutor Pete Dinelli, a Democrat who says he’s likely to run; and Councilor Ken Sanchez, who’s also weighing a campaign for Congress.
Berry, a Republican, has said he won’t seek re-election to a third term, making this year’s race the first in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot. He easily defeated Dinelli and another candidate, Paul Heh, winning 68 percent of the vote during his 2013 re-election bid.
The race is nonpartisan. Party labels won’t appear on the ballot, and there will be no primary election to narrow the field. If no one gets 50 percent of the vote Oct. 3, a runoff election will be held in November with the top two vote-getters.
The decision to seek public financing, meanwhile, could put Keller at a financial disadvantage.
Berry raised more than $900,000 when he ran in 2013, and Democrat Martin Chávez raised about $1.1 million during his successful 2005 re-election campaign. Berry defeated Chávez in 2009.
Independent political committees can also raise and spend unlimited amounts. Some groups, of course, may spend on Keller’s behalf, though by law they can’t coordinate campaign activity.
Keller said pursuing public financing is a matter of principle.
“For us, we think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s a values issue.”
Five other candidates are also seeking public financing: Garcia Holmes, Padilla, Aragon, Madison and Lamont Davis.
To qualify, candidates must gather $5 contributions from about 3,790 voters in Albuquerque.
Keller said he would step down as state auditor if elected mayor. Whoever wins election this fall will take office Dec. 1, and Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, would appoint Keller’s replacement through the end of 2018.