Albuquerque mayoral candidates have to file their next campaign finance reports by April 15. For most, it will be their first reports filed this election. While many of the candidates speak highly of public financing, only one has qualified for it.
New Mexico Democrats, for example, have pushed for more publicly financed races and campaigns since at least 2008, when the party added language to their state platform that says “all political campaigns should be publicly financed. The Albuquerque mayoral race is nonpartisan, so none of the candidates will be identified with any specific political party on the ballot. Mayoral candidates Deanna Archuleta and Brian Colón are both prominent Democrats running for mayor who both opted to use private funds for their campaigns.
Colón told NM Political Report he supports a public campaign financing system that works but lamented that Albuquerque’s system does not. “I have long advocated for the city to create a public finance system that fairly allows candidates access to public funds,” Colón said in a prepared statement. “However, our current public finance system does not yet provide the vehicle for campaigns to properly communicate with the electorate.”
Colón was the chair of the state Democratic Party in 2008 when the party added its public financing stance to its platform. He said he initially thought about using public financing for his mayoral candidacy but ultimately decided not to because “the system is completely broken.” Colón added that the city’s version of political action committees, called measure finance committees, can still have a large influence on a race by using outside money to support publicly financed candidates.
“I’m not interested in engaging in that system,” Colón said. “Instead, I’ve decided to be completely transparent and raise and report all funds associated in any way with my campaign.”
Archuleta did not respond to an emailed question from NM Political Report about her decision to run on private financing.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico doesn’t necessarily see the two Democrats choosing not to use public campaign financing for their candidacies as a problem either. Party Director Joe Kabourek said that ultimately candidates will decide whether public financing is appropriate or not. “Each candidate is going to make the best choice for their campaign,” Kabourek said. Kabourek added that the statewide party platform “at best is an aspirational document.”
Former City Councilor and current Director of New Mexico’s Working Families Party Eric Griego wrote the legislation that ultimately became Albuquerque’s public financing ordinance. Griego said he’s “disappointed” in both Archuleta and Colón for not attempting to get public financing. “This is a bad tactical decision on their part,” he said.
New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller, a registered Democrat, was the only mayoral candidate to qualify for public financing. Keller told NM Political Report he recognizes that public financing reflects the Democratic platform but emphasized that he also opted not to use private money for personal reason. “For me, it was the right thing to do,” Keller said.
Keller also took a shot at politicians who praise public financing but don’t use it.
“Everyone talks about public financing, but yet when they have a choice, [they say] ‘Oh, maybe it’s not for me,’” he said.
The majority of filed mayoral candidates originally sought public financing but were unable to collect the 3,820 $5 donations necessary from Albuquerque voters to qualify.
Last year, the Albuquerque City Council voted in favor of a ballot measure to nearly double the amount of money available to candidates who use public financing. But the Bernalillo County Commission ultimately voted to not include the measure on the general election ballot last November.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry won his first election with public financing, but did not use it in his 2013 reelection campaign. Numerous city councilors have also won races using public financing.