Wednesday, February 26, 2003
House OKs Runoff Elections
By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
SANTA FE Albuquerque and other cities could hold runoff elections under a constitutional amendment proposal approved Tuesday on a 43-22 vote by the House.
"We finally got through step one, and we got pretty good bipartisan support," said House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque, after the vote. Hobbs has unsuccessfully pushed for runoff elections for a number of years.
Hobbs told his House colleagues the runoff proposal is supported by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Hispano Chamber, chambers of commerce in Santa Fe and Las Cruces, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.
"We have been electing mayors with about 30 percent of the vote and less than 10 percent of the registered voters voting," Hobbs said. "That is not a good mandate for mayors."
Hobbs noted that Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez was elected with about 30 percent of the city vote in 2001, while Jim Baca, Chávez's predecessor, was elected with 29 percent in 1997. Both Chávez and Baca support the runoff measure, Hobbs said.
Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, and other opponents argued that runoff elections could dilute the influence of a cohesive minority bloc, which is now able to elect a favored candidate with less than a majority of the vote.
Martinez also questioned Hobbs' contention that it is important for mayors and other city officials to have a mandate.
"I don't understand how the percentage you win by affects your ability to govern," Martinez said.
Albuquerque required runoff elections until 1997, when a state District Court judge said they clashed with the state constitution.
If the proposed constitutional amendment is approved by the Legislature, it would be considered by voters in the 2004 general election.
The measure, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, would allow cities to hold runoff elections either by ordinance or in accordance with their home-rule charters.