What a difference four years makes. When Sally Mayer ran for Albuquerque's District 7 Council seat, hardly anyone in the area knew her. Maybe for that reason she had an easy time defeating incumbent Tim Kline. Republicans accepted her as their candidate while Democrats slept.
She boasts that as City Councilor she has attended something like 145 neighborhood meetings. Additionally, she's launched her own monthly forums called the "Heart of the Heights." She's been in the news with initiatives to help prairie dogs, promote plastic lawns, rewrite the city's animal code and place on the October ballot a voter ID proposal that ignores the possibility of fraud in absentee voting.
So how's Mayer doing in her bid for re-election now that voters know her? She's fighting for her political life. Mayer's so busy fending off two determined Republican challengers she can barely do anything about her Democratic opponent.
Mayer faces Republicans Wayne Johnson and Ed Glenn in this four-way race. Johnson is an attractive young opponent, with impressive pubic speaking skills and real presence. He has an energetic volunteer base highly motivated to unseat Mayer. It's led by many of the neighborhood leaders who backed Mayer in her first run. From the proliferation of yard signs, District 7's heavily Republican precincts look like solid Johnson territory.
Glenn is the outraged citizen who's had enough and is pushing back. Mayer's performance in the Wyoming Mall Wal-Mart controversy pulled him into the race. He's running a bare bones campaign out of his own pocket. "If you want to make a donation," he says, "give to the Red Cross for people who really need it." Pundits may too quickly discount him. His brand of hard-edged populism resonates with many male Republicans. He's a firebrand with no "off" button. He is going to draw votes from Mayer.
The Democratic challenger is Marianne Dickinson, who is touting her decades of experience in dealing with City Hall as a businesswoman and neighborhood leader. Her base resides in the Democratic wards on the south and west sides of District 7. Her campaign manager says she also enjoys support from Republicans impressed with her plans to revitalize the district's deteriorating commercial corridors.
Johnson, Glenn and Dickinson disagree on many important issues. Glenn and Dickinson support impact fees, which Johnson thinks are a bad idea. Glenn and Johnson praise the concealed carry law, which gives Dickinson pause. But they all agree that the district would be better off with any one of them than with Mayer.
It's difficult to see where Mayer's support comes from. Although she's lined up former state Rep. Pauline Guebbels as her campaign treasurer, she doesn't have anything like the volunteer organizations of Johnson and Dickinson. Her monthly Heart of the Heights meetings have cultivated a loyal, but small, following from neighborhoods close to the Uptown Sheraton where the meetings are held.
Last time she ran, Mayer had the full weight of the Republican Party to compensate for her lack of connections to the district. (She moved in only six months before the election.) This time, the GOP activists are not with her, and Republican attacks on Mayer are mounting. Before a Republican mayoral candidate emerged, being close to Mayor Martin Chavez seemed a good strategy for Mayer. But with the Republican apparatus solidifying behind City Council President Brad Winter, Mayer is starting to pay for her loyalty to Chavez.
Capt. Marie Miranda, APD Area Commander for the Foothills, has now drawn Mayer into questions about the integrity of the Chavez administration. Miranda was the first officer to blow the whistle on the theft and disappearance of drugs, money and guns from the APD evidence room. Her reward for this noble public service was to be punished by the Chavez administration.
In a letter to members of the Albuquerque Federation of Republican Women, Miranda scolded Mayer and fellow Chavezista Republican Councilor Tina Cummins for sitting on their hands during the evidence room scandal and leaving her and other honest cops to twist in the wind.
Miranda then ups the ante. "As for the mess in City Hall," Miranda tells fellow Republican women, "what the public does not know is that the true story reads like a novel, with inappropriate relationships, children born outside of marriages, pornography, domestic violence and other crimes that have gone un-investigated."
Miranda was absolutely right about crimes in the evidence room. The question facing Mayer is how she will handle further serious charges from a police captain with a proven record of courage and credibility. Whichever way she turns, Mayer faces a very rough ride on her road to re-election.