Given that only 31 percent of eligible voters came out to the polls for the recent election, it's probably safe to assume that most of you—yeah, I'm lookin' at you, smarty butt—have been living under a rock. With this in mind, we thought we'd fill in the clueless regarding the outcome of the citywide races, and maybe dish up a few half-baked predictions along the way. Hey, at least that way you can seem to be an involved, civically minded person next time you find yourself in a room full of people who give a crap about such things.
First off, you may have already heard that incumbent Martin Chavez won the mayor's race, nabbing an unprecedented third term. What does this mean? Well, given that Chavez raised astronomically more money than his anemic opponents, it means that when the Almighty Buck talks here in Albuquerque, sheep-like voters listen. It also means that even though we here at the Alibi disapprove of several of Chavez' policy positions, not to mention his sometimes underhanded political tactics, you've got to give the guy credit. He's the best damn all-round politician in town. He kisses the right butts. He screws the right opponents. He says the right things at the right time to the right people. He's the king. No doubt about it. And I know I'm not the only one taking notes.
The five City Council races got less attention but are probably even more important to the future of our city. Chavez made out like a bandit on this score, too. Two of his biggest political opponents are now gone. Eric Griego, who ran a valiant but futile race against Chavez for mayor, gave up his position as District 3's councilor. (Griego, however, was replaced by the impressive Isaac Benton, who's unlikely to be the mayor's lackey.) Likewise, Miguel Gómez, incumbent councilor for District 1, lost badly to former County Commissioner Ken Sanchez ... who just happens to be Chavez' former campaign treasurer. You can bet the relations between these two will be cozy.
Two other district races also led to results favorable for Chavez. Veteran Chavez rubber-stamper Sally Mayer easily beat out progressive competitor Marianne Dickinson in District 7. Meanwhile, over in District 9, there will be a runoff between two equally unappealing candidates.
Runoff elections are extremely expensive, but for political obsessives they're a lot of fun. The only one we got this time around was between District 9 incumbent Tina Cummins, another Chavez rubber-stamper, and her opponent Don F. Harris, neither of whom got the requisite 40 percent necessary to shimmy into office. No one will pay much attention to their runoff race, scheduled for Nov. 15, and that's a bit of a shame. This has old-fashioned Japanese monster movie written all over it. Cheer both sides. Cheer neither. It just doesn't matter.
Over in District 5, Michael Cadigan beat the bejesus out of his opponent Betty Valdez. Cadigan's looking good right now. He'll most likely be the new swing vote on several key issues in a Council that's shifted significantly to the right. Let's hope he will hold the line if the new Council tries anything too extreme, like gutting the Planned Growth Strategy and the Impact Fees ordinance, for example.
One of the few bright spots in the election was the success of the public campaign financing proposal. This isn't going to fix a broken local political system corrupted by big money, but it is a step in the right direction in that it potentially gives worthy candidates who aren't beholden to special interests a real shot at public office here in Albuquerque.
Finally, there's the Living Wage ordinance, which was rejected by a mere 1,500 votes. Yeah, the restaurant industry had a legitimate gripe because the new law would raise the base wage of tipped employees to $4.50 per hour. Why should waitstaff making $12 or $13 per hour get a government-mandated raise to $14 to $15 per hour?
That said, the main opponents of the measure popularized a series of outrageous, well-financed lies regarding the proposal, saying that the new law would allow anyone to invade any business at any time and bring that business to a complete standstill. Shameless baloney! But lies and politics go hand in hand, so if you're shocked and appalled, head back to Mayberry, Gomer. Albuquerque will eat you alive.
Thankfully, this particular debate isn't going away. Councilor Martin Heinrich, one of the most vocal supporters of the proposal, has now teamed up with Gov. Bill Richardson to try to push a similar proposal through the state Legislature. Richardson has said there's a good chance the new statewide proposal will appear in the Roundhouse during the upcoming January session. The details of the plan have yet to be worked out.
All in all, turnout was weenie, as it usually is in municipal elections. Chavez, for example, was voted into office by a mere 14 percent or so of eligible Albuquerque voters. Pathetic. Kind of makes me want to cry. I guess it'll take a full-on Armageddon before Albuquerqueans start to give a hoot about who's controlling their government, spending their money and making decisions that affect the fragile future of our city.