ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With his wife, Kurstin, by his side, Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson formally jumped into Albuquerque’s mayoral race on Sunday.
“We need a true leader that will bring people together,” said Johnson, a Republican who has served as a county commissioner for six years.
Roughly 140 people showed up to hear Johnson make his mayoral run official, many of them chanting, “We want Wayne” at several points during the event.
“This race is about public safety. We need to be secure in our homes. We need a safe city,” he said. “It’s about job creation.”
For the first time in 20 years, there will be no incumbent in the Albuquerque mayor’s race. Mayor Richard Berry has said he will not seek a third term.
Johnson said he believes “really bad decisions” have been made over the last four or five years, including the settlement agreement the city entered into with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the Albuquerque Police Department’s unconstitutional uses of excessive force.
“Every officer I’ve talked to — and I talk to a lot of them — tells me the same thing. The DOJ has made it difficult for them to do their jobs,” Johnson said. “When you face a four-hour investigation after a minor use of force, something like taking someone to the ground to protect them and to protect other officers and the public, you’ve got a system that is broken.”
Johnson said police officers are practicing defensive policing, meaning that they’re not doing anything they don’t have to do, because they don’t want to risk losing their homes.
“As mayor, you know I will back the police department,” Johnson said. “That will help us solve the crime problem.”
He also said that he would work hard on economic development.
“We need to make sure that government gets out of the way,” he said. He added that he is a firm believer in right to work.
“I don’t look at that as anti-union,” he said. “I think it will actually end up making unions better because you’ll have a choice whether you want to join a union in the public and private sector.”
And Johnson said he would also focus on improving education for Albuquerque students by focusing on programs outside the classroom that can help them.
This year’s race for mayor is shaping up to be a crowded one, with 14 candidates having filed paperwork with the city clerk to run.
Besides Johnson, others seeking the post are former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta, former state Democratic Party chairman Brian Colón, City Councilor Dan Lewis and State Auditor Tim Keller. Other candidates are 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; Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, founder of the civic group Urban ABQ; and retired police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes.
The race is nonpartisan, which means party labels won’t appear on the ballot. If none of the mayoral candidates gets 50 percent of the vote on Oct. 3, a runoff election will be held in November between the top two vote-getters.