Alibi V.14 No.13 • March 31-April 6, 2005 


Carpetbagger Blues

District 7 council race already heating up

Sally Mayer, Albuquerque's District 7 councilor, is a realtor. But Mayer doesn't own a home in District 7. She rents. You might guess she hasn't expected to stay long. You might guess right.

Mayer slipped into the district a scant six months before her election. Forgive the stereotypes, but Mayer's candidacy actually was hatched by Republican powerbrokers and Westside developers. They had a person who had run well against Raymond Sanchez and needed a place to put her to work. District 7 looked easy. How do I know this? I once sat next to one of her lead supporters on a long flight to Washington, D.C., and got an earful of regret.

Mayer's run for the Council four years ago was one of the nastiest campaigns ever seen at the local level. The auto-dial attacks we have come to hate made their City Council debut during her race against the incumbent Tim Kline. Mayer denied having anything to do with them, but we can confidently rule out sunspots and Pentagon experiments with urban warfare technology as the source. It was urban warfare, all the same.

When Mayer challenged Kline, she was the sole Republican in the race. That was her key to victory. This time she will face not only a Democratic challenger, but also a challenger from within her own party. Both her opponents may be new at politics, but unlike Mayer they have strong ties to District 7.

Unexpectedly, all three candidates found themselves sitting at the same table during the latest Northeast Heights Neighborhood Coalition meeting at Sandia High School.

Across from Mayer sat Democrat Marianne Dickinson. Dickinson, 55, has been a businesswoman in Albuquerque for 30 years. She now runs a service helping senior citizens stay in their homes. Dickinson can count on the usual Democratic troops. But she also has support from developers, realtors and landlords weary of the decline in commercial properties in the Northeast Heights.

The other Republican in the race will be Wayne Johnson. Johnson, 37, owns a media production business. He looks out on shuttered buildings across the street, only a block from Winrock Mall, and worries about the district's future. He's running, he says, "because Sally hasn't been there for us." His treasurer will be Kathy Leyendecker, the Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic state Rep. Al Park.

You can sense Mayer is feeling the heat. But her attempt to put on a good show in a rare appearance before her District 7 neighborhood leaders fell short. She proudly announced a visionary process for implementing sector plans across her entire district. "We need to have the power to decide our future," she insisted. Then she announced she would excuse herself from any vote on the Wal-Mart Supercenter going in at the old Wyoming Mall. So much for that vision thing.

Half the district probably wants an extension of the Chinese economy smack in the "heart of the heights," as Mayer calls District 7. The other half likely worries about traffic or Wal-Mart's impact on neighborhood businesses. Everyone will want their councilor speaking up for them. Sally Mayer just wants to punt.

Mayer came out swinging against expansion of the casino at the State Fairgrounds. Several of the neighborhood presidents, however, already knew that she did not help fight the Vegas-wannabe when she visited the Roundhouse during this legislative session. Instead, Mayer went to ask the Legislature to strip Albuquerque of the right to set its own impact fees, which are designed to even the playing field for older neighborhoods like those she represents.

Mayer pursed her lips in sympathy when a neighborhood president lamented the car lots cannibalizing Lomas. But she didn't offer to do a thing about the gaping urban wounds anyone can see while they wait for the light at Lomas and San Mateo.

Mayer cannot count on all the neighborhood leaders who once supported her in happier times. Their revolt started when she blew off a meeting of the presidents of 20 neighborhood associations that had been called so she could explain her vote on raising water rates. Then she refused to attend District 7 coalition meetings because they were held on Thursdays, which she claimed as her day off. So they moved the meetings to Wednesdays. Her attendance has been spotty, but will surely improve this election year.

Mayor Martin Chavez is Mayer's strongest supporter. She has been closely aligned with Chavez on key votes. He has bailed her out of tiffs with her own neighborhoods. He may have to cut her loose, though, to protect his flanks from warring factions of Heights Republicans, upon whom he seems to be counting for re-election. And if Marty drops Sally, she will be closely studying the early termination clause in her lease.

Mayer has been heard to describe herself, jokingly, as a carpetbagger. In a little over seven months, we'll know if voters agree with that assessment.

The Alibi recently learned that a second Republican, Ed Glenn, will enter the District 7 race against Sally "M.I.A.," as he calls her. Glenn, 41, works for an engineering company and owns a real estate brokerage firm. He states his primary reason for running is that "Sally's never there when we need her."