This article was first published on New Mexico In Depth and has been republished with their permission.
By Marjorie Childress, New Mexico In Depth November 15, 2017
State Auditor Tim Keller landed strong in his bid to be Albuquerque’s next mayor, sweeping up just under 62 percent of the vote last night in an election with large turnout for Albuquerque — 29 percent.
Keller ran a largely positive campaign, emphasizing along the way grassroots support for his campaign. The only candidate in the race who went for public financing, he raised 6,000 small donations of $5 early in the year to qualify for public funding. He noted in his victory speech the positive nature of his campaign, saying he had “rejected division.”
His positive campaign overcame negative ads charging he was soft on sex offenders and numerous ethics complaints filed by his political opponents.
As a publicly financed candidate he was in the middle of the pack financially, in what was the most expensive mayoral race in Albuquerque, ever.
Here’s a breakdown of the funds available to each candidate, including in-kind support and loans from candidates to themselves, during the general election
|Michelle Garcia Holmes||$88,416||3.04%|
During the run-off period, Keller was outraised significantly by his opponent, City Councilor Dan Lewis.
On the surface, it appears that Keller pulled out a win while being resoundingly outspent.
Technically, he was.
But he also benefited from a political committee that formed specifically to support him. Albuquerque Forward Together gathered impressive support from labor and other progressive organizations, both in New Mexico and nationally. When combined, Keller and ABQ Forward Together funds significantly outstripped other candidates.
|Total ABQ Forward Together||$673,761|
|Total Tim Keller||$544,225|
|Total funds supporting Keller||$1,217,986|
While some argue that the political committee undercuts the spirit of Albuquerque public financing, others point to the hobbled nature of the current law that had a key matching funds provision thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an Arizona case that such laws stifle free speech.
Since the matching fund provision was thrown out in 2011, the Albuquerque City Council has not fixed the law in a way that would allow publicly financed candidates to keep track with the fundraising of their opponents.
There were also other political committees in the mix. One, an organization called ABQ Working Families raised $145,445 to support him as well as others. And there were several committees that ran negative ads against Keller in both the general and runoff election.
Keller’s method of using the 10 percent in-kind support allowed under the public financing law made him the subject of an ethics complaint. Just a day before the run-off election, the city’s Board of Ethics & Campaign Practices found he violated the campaign finance law, but that it was unintentional. Keller also has two other ethics complaints to deal with, one that alleges his campaign coordinated with the political committee supporting his run. And there are other outstanding ethics complaints against a political committee that ran negative ads against Keller.