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Keller And Lewis Faceoff For ABQ Mayor

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
Tim Keller addresses a roomful of supporters on election night.

Voters whittled the eight-candidate ballot for mayor down to just two contenders: state Auditor Tim Keller and Westside City Councilor Dan Lewis. About 97,000 people voted in Albuquerque’s election on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and that’s significantly more ballots than the dismal citywide election four years ago.  "Today citizens of our city came out to vote like they haven’t in a long time," Keller told a crowd of supporters.

Keller still has a few weeks of campaigning in front of him before the Nov. 14 runoff election. The race is nonpartisan, but Keller’s a Democrat and Lewis is conservative. Keller said he won’t have a problem reaching across the divide. 

"My track record on fraud, waste and abuse speaks to everyone, especially conservative voters," he said. "And so does my bipartisan track record in the Senate, having passed the most bills there. I think folks realize that I’ll get things done. Even if we don’t agree on everything, we’ll agree on most things."

He took home a healthy chunk of the votes, about 39 percent.

Justin Montgomery said he’s looking for a mayor who will restore the city’s police force. He’s a member of the Police Officers Association and a Keller supporter. "We were at 1,100 officers before Berry took office. Berry kind of decimated this police department," he said, "250 officers have left since, and we cannot sustain this downward spiral."

Crime was the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds heading into Election Day. During the campaign, Keller pledged to hire more officers and a new chief of police

Credit Melorie Begay / KUNM
Dan Lewis on election night

Dan Lewis and his supporters were both caught off guard at his watch party when a campaign member rushed over to his podium and told him he made it to the runoff. Now, Lewis is gearing up for the runoff election. He said his platform is far different from Keller’s.

"“There are some very different approaches on how we go about the challenges that are plaguing our city and I think we’ll get plenty of opportunity to be able to distinguish ourselves," Lewis said.

The runoff will allow people to see that he’s running a campaign that’s stronger than Keller’s, Lewis said, on crime, education and jobs. The goal is to gain the support of people who didn’t vote for Keller. “We’ll reach out to the people that voted for other candidates that are likeminded," he said. "We’re going to really come together.”

Jay Williams was one of dozens of supporters stayed at a local venue until election results came in. “I feel excited, I feel pumped, I mean we’ve got a chance to turn this city around to renew this city, and we’ve got a candidate that’s bold enough to do it.”

Williams said he’s most concerned with crime and how it could affect his family. Lewis is the only candidate, he said, who is willing to do whatever it takes even if it means crossing party lines. 

Credit Sarah Trujillo
Brian Colón

Brian Colón was neck and neck with Dan Lewis throughout the night but failed to make the runoff election.

Colón said he’s proud that his campaign didn’t run a single negative ad.

“I know that the people that came to the table for our campaign will stay involved in the city of Albuquerque,” he said, “because they do believe that coming together is the way you build and lift up a city.”

It’s not about the politics, Colón said. He wouldn’t comment on the other candidates but plans to keep his focus on community engagement.

Many of his supporters know him personally, people like Steven Martinez, who said he’s proud that Colón ran a clean campaign.

“I feel like Brian was the only one who really kept the gloves on,” he said. Keller is playing both sides, Martinez said, by taking public financing while also benefiting from the private PAC money that supported his campaign.

“I think it’s really easy for people like Tim who procure public financing to go after people like Brian and say, ‘Oh you’re representing the corporate interest,’” Martinez explained, “well, go tell that to the people who formed your PAC.”

Politics is a ruthless game, Martinez said, and it’s all about public perception.

Colón got 16.38 percent of the vote.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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