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Romero Launches Bid for Mayor

By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
       Honesty, ethics and Manny Aragon.
    Former state Sen. Richard Romero touched on them all Tuesday as he launched his campaign for mayor.
    Romero, a Democrat, explained that he worked with Republicans in 2001 to depose Aragon and take over as Senate president pro tem in what he said was a sign of his willingness to challenge the status quo. He described Aragon, who has since pleaded guilty to mail fraud and conspiracy, as abusive and corrupt.
    Romero also stressed his support for publicly financed elections and his record as a negotiator who works well with others, Republicans and Democrats alike. He said he would offer "a new way forward," drawing on his experience both as a legislator and as an administrator.
    "These are truly the winds of change," Romero said as winds buffeted his podium on a blustery day.
    He becomes the fourth candidate to announce a bid for mayor in the October election. Also running are City Councilors Michael Cadigan and Debbie O'Malley, as well as community activist Donna Rowe.
    Mayor Martin Chávez hasn't said yet whether he will seek re-election, though he went to court last year to knock down term limits that would have prevented him from doing so. He also filed paperwork Tuesday to seek public financing.
    Romero's announcement marks his return to politics after five years. He ran and lost twice against Heather Wilson for the 1st District congressional seat. He also spent 12 years in the New Mexico Legislature, where he worked on animal-protection legislation, school reform and union rights, among other things.
    Romero said he was proud of having worked with Republicans in 2002 to pass a budget bill over the objection of then-Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican who repeatedly vetoed spending measures adopted by the Legislature.
    That kind of leadership, Romero said, would be valuable at City Hall, where the mayor and City Council have clashed repeatedly over the past few years on who has authority to do what.
    "We all believe we need a change in the way the city of Albuquerque does business," Romero said. "... I'm a good negotiator."
    In his announcement, across from City Hall at Fifth and Marquette NW, Romero stood in front of about two dozen supporters and repeatedly mentioned the need for honesty and strong ethics.
    "I believe corruption has no place in government," he said. "We need leadership with integrity."
    Romero, 64, said he would work to reduce crime, improve the economy by helping small businesses and make Albuquerque a leader in renewable energy.
    Albuquerque elections are nonpartisan. The election is in October, but if no candidate gets at least 40 percent of the vote, the top two will compete in a runoff election in November.
    It will be a different kind of campaign for Romero. He intends to participate in public financing, a system that's expected to provide each mayoral candidate with about $328,000 for their campaigns — a far cry from the millions that flow into congressional races.
    Romero spent about $2 million on his race in 2004. Wilson spent more than $3 million.
    He said he's been a longtime advocate of public financing and is eager to keep big-money donors out of the campaign.
    Managing Romero's campaign this time is Neri Holguin, who went undefeated as a campaign manager last year against opponents that represented more than 50 years of experience in the Legislature.
    Romero, a retired educator who spent 13 years as a high school principal, has worked as a lobbyist in recent years for the University of New Mexico and other education groups. He said he has stepped down from all his lobbying jobs.
    He lives in a historic home in Downtown Albuquerque and grew up near the Rio Grande Zoo in Barelas. Romero said his dad was a welder and his mom a cleaning lady.
    He played baseball in college and is a member of the athletics Hall of Honor at Albuquerque High School, where he played several sports.
    Romero lives with his wife, Margie, and two dogs. The family has also provided a foster home to rescued dogs.

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