The 14 individuals running for mayor of Albuquerque will need to gather at least 3,000 signatures each by April 28 in order to appear on the ballot, although what counts as a valid signature remains a source of some confusion, even among officials.
“I’ve heard several theories from the mayoral candidates and their supporters,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. “Everyone has a different idea about how many petitions one person can sign and who is eligible to sign.”
Albuquerque’s charter says only that the signatures must be provided by “registered city voters.” Whether a voter provides the information on the petition that will allow their signature to be considered valid, however, is another question.
City Clerk Natalie Howard’s office is charged with verifying the signatures. Howard said voters are free to sign as many petitions as they like, though they can only sign each candidate’s petition once. She said the city checks the signatures against a database of Albuquerque voters provided by the county.
“If they’re in the county’s system as a registered voter, we assume the signature is valid,” she said.
Nicolette Garcia, a spokeswoman for the county clerk’s office, said it is essential that petition signers provide the same name and address that they’ve used to register to vote, or else the city may be unable to match the voter with the county’s list.
Initially, the city clerk’s office referred questions about who is a registered city voter to the county clerk’s office, while the county said it was the city that is responsible for creating those guidelines and determining how to implement them.
“It’s complicated,” said Garcia, a spokeswoman for the county clerk’s office. “If you’re not familiar with the process, there’s a lot to learn.”
Those who have registered their intent to run for mayor with the city clerk’s office are radio host Eddy Aragon, an independent; former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta, a Democrat; Elan Colello, a Democrat and CEO of a virtual reality company; Brian Colón, former chairman of the state Democratic Party; Lamont Davis; retired police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes, an independent; Rachel Golden, a Republican; Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican; state Auditor Tim Keller, a Democrat; Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, a Republican; Scott Madison, a Democrat who works with the nuclear weapons program at Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories; Old Town resident Stella Padilla, a Democrat; University of New Mexico undergraduate Gus Pedrotty; and grocery store owner Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, an independent.
Four candidates are running privately funded campaigns, with the rest seeking public funding. To qualify for public funding, those candidates will have until March 31 to gather $5 contributions from 3,802 registered city voters.
Howard expressed frustration at the confusion despite spending time with each candidate to ensure the election’s rules are understood.
“We sit down with them to explain everything to them and give them copies of the charter, the rules for public financing, everything,” she said. “I just want to make sure that everyone is totally clear on the requirements.”