Ten of the 14 people running to be Albuquerque’s next mayor had sought public financing for their campaigns, but only one of those candidates – State Auditor Tim Keller – has qualified.
“This was a daunting task, to try and get the number of $5 contributions that are needed for this,” Keller said during a Saturday morning news conference. “It’s extremely rare historically.”
Saturday was the deadline for mayoral candidates seeking public financing to submit $5 contributions from 3,802 registered city voters in order to tap into public financing. City Clerk Natalie Howard said Keller was the only candidate who met the threshold. He will receive $1 per registered city voter – roughly $380,000 in city funds, minus the “seed money” he raised – to run his campaign.
Howard said the remaining candidates who had been pursuing public financing have switched to private financing.
Keller thanked the hundreds of volunteers who helped him, saying they collected almost 6,000 donations over the last six weeks. “For us, this is a way to make our campaign about building a vision going forward as opposed to fundraising, and that’s what we’re going to be able to do because we hit our goals today,” he added.
Candidates who tried unsuccessfully for public financing were Scott Madison, who works with the nuclear weapons program at Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories; retired Old Town resident Stella Padilla; Elan Colello, CEO of a virtual reality company; Rachel Golden, who works at a movie theater; University of New Mexico undergraduate Augustus “Gus” Pedrotty; Jacob Shull, a native of Florida who has lived in Albuquerque for nearly six years; Lamont Davis; and Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, founder of the civic group Urban ABQ. Retired police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes said she withdrew from public financing in late February.
“They make it impossible practically,” Padilla said, referring to the requirements to qualify for public financing. She said many of the people she approached didn’t feel they should have to pay $5 to show their support for her.
“It was an incredibly uphill battle,” Madison said. He said that in order to succeed at public financing, candidates either need to make running for mayor their full-time job, or they need a large volunteer force.
Madison said he would like to see Albuquerque move to a tiered system, in which candidates receive campaign funds from the city based on how many $5 donations they are able to raise.
Wheeler-Deichsel said she realized within three weeks that she wasn’t going to be able to meet the threshold for public financing.
“None of us has the network Tim (Keller) has,” she said.
Mayoral candidates who opted not to seek public financing early on were former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta, former state Democratic Party chairman Brian Colón, Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson and City Councilor Dan Lewis. Eddy Aragon, who had previously announced that he was running for mayor, has withdrawn from the race.
Four years ago, former City Councilor Pete Dinelli was the only mayoral candidate to qualify for public financing. He lost to Mayor Richard Berry, who raised about $900,000 for his run.
Keller said he expects to be competitive, regardless of how much money his opponents raise.
“We’re going to have an amazing ground game going forward,” he said. “… We essentially were incentivized to get our campaign together and to get heavily organized early by this process … Hopefully, folks know me. I’ve been around a while and they know my track record. They know the good work that I’ve been able to do for the community, and because of that, I think we’ll be able to go head to head with anyone who is doing private financing.”
Mayoral candidates must now gather at least 3,000 signatures from registered city voters by April 28 in order to appear on the ballot. The election is Oct. 3.