At the start of election season, it seemed like Mayor Martin Chavez had it on lockdown. Albuquerque lazily climbs into the sack with an incumbent, goes the thinking. Most people will check the box next to that old familiar name. But a 406-person poll released Sunday, Sept. 27, shows conservative Rep. R.J. Berry in the lead with 31 percent, followed by Chavez at 26 percent and Richard Romero at 24 percent. The survey was conducted by Brian Sanderoff’s Research & Polling, Inc. for the Albuquerque Journal. The next mayor has to snag 40 percent of the vote or we'll be facing a runoff. Which leaves us with the question: Could the Tuesday, Oct. 6 election really be anyone's race?
There are three names you won't find on the ballot but who you can still vote for. They’re write-in options, certified by the City Clerk's Office. Ricky Lee Barber and Donna Rowe want the mayor's job. David Green is running in Council District 7 against Michael Cook.
Donna Rowe: Mayor
Like 55 percent of the people polled, Rowe isn't a big fan of Chavez. That's why she's in this race, she says. "When I heard the mayor pulled some strings and was allowed to run again, it pissed me off bad enough that I decided to take a stab at it," she says. "That was the lightbulb moment."
For years Rowe's been the heart of Youth in Transition, a loose organization that’s sometimes a shelter and sometimes a gathering of homeless youth in Albuquerque. She's spent the last few months talking to thousands of people, initially gathering signatures in an attempt to receive public financing, which she didn’t get. "I love talking to people. I was out with a friend one night and we were gathering signatures and he says, ‘Donna, we're hustling here. Quit talking to people so long.’ ”
The big issues, she says, are not those hammered on by her opponents. Crime and jobs and growth are important, and she’s got stances on those. But the many residents she's spoken with complain about two things: red-light cameras and an out-of-control Albuquerque Police Department. "It crossed every economic boundary."
Rowe's insider view of the trials facing the poorest Albuquerqueans informs her positions. She considers herself a true people's candidate. "I'm somebody that respects and wants to hear from every single person in this city, that isn't cruel, that doesn't turn a blind eye to pain and suffering and the massive amount of poverty." Making the city look pretty on the outside is like putting an expensive blanket on a crappy mattress, she says.
“I'm somebody that respects and wants to hear from every single person in this city, that isn't cruel, that doesn't turn a blind eye to pain and suffering and the massive amount of poverty.”
Mayoral candidate Donna Rowe
She's against sprawl and says if we quit bowing down to corporations and instead focus on small business owners and infrastructure within the city, it will create jobs. Transportation is a problem for those who work evening or nighttime shifts. "People can't get to work.” Those are often poor people, she adds, and there are job openings for them if they can get there.
Homelessness is a top issue for her—in particular, the harassment of the homeless by police. You can't make the homeless disappear, she says. People complain about seeing the homeless around, she continues, and the city’s answer is often to ticket them or lock them up. "More of our money could go into programs for more shelters."
The word "change" is overused this campaign season, she says. "But none of the candidates promise the kind of change I could bring to this city."
David Green: Councilor
He's a baker and a writer and an Albuquerque native who's lived in District 7 since the third grade, with a couple of brief exceptions. His family was always engaged in politics, he says, and that interest spurred him to enter this race. He missed the city clerk’s deadline for turning in his Declaration of Candidacy, which is why he’s a write-in candidate this time around.
He's concerned that the Uptown district wasn't fairly represented by Councilor Sally Mayer as the economically diverse place it is. "The district needs to get its fair share of development, landscaping and road repairs," he says. But it's a balancing act between major projects, like ABQ Uptown, and nearby neighborhood associations. Many retired people live in the district, and they’re focused on saving money and accountability. Many, he says, oppose a Downtown arena, a light-rail system and the Tingley Beach wading pond, and they want to send someone to the Council who will vote against those things.
“One thing I can't stand about politics, is everyone asks the viability question. If I was publicly financed, the story in this race would be of two publicly financed newcomers.”
Council candidate David Green
Public safety is a concern in D7, as it is everywhere else. But Green says he understands that it's not a simple issue. "I recognize that it is a bigger picture," he says. Discounts for home alarm systems should be offered, he says. Neighborhood watches should be increased, he continues, and neighbors should get to know one another. Additionally, more police are a nice idea, he says, but the force needs to make sure to hire officers who are ready and able to patrol.
He accuses his opponent Michael Cook, also a newcomer, of having too cozy a relationship with APD after serving on the Police Oversight Commission. He also charges that Cook doesn't have a clear idea of a councilor's job requirements. (Mayer is not running for re-election.)
The mayor/Council relationship has certainly been full of static, he acknowledges. "Part of my approach to this whole thing is firm but fair. My approach to life is the same as my approach to politics. Everyone's issues matter to them, but they have to get along even if they don't like each other."
He says if he had taken public financing, he would have used no more than one-third of the money and returned the rest. He initially tried to get the signatures required for public financing, but he found it difficult to ask for cash.
He's run his campaign without money. This prevented him from getting endorsements. "One thing I can't stand about politics, is everyone asks the viability question. If I was publicly financed, the story in this race would be of two publicly financed newcomers. Now it’s a write-in candidate and someone going, as the Journal says, without opposition on the ballot. Whatever."
The Alibi's phone calls to mayoral write-in candidate Barber were not returned. There was talk of Rudolph Serrano running for mayor also as a write-in candidate, but he was found not to live within city limits, according to the City Clerk’s Office.
See write-in candidates' responses to our questionnaire here.