Alibi V.28 No.24 • June 13-19, 2019 

On Assignment

Things Are About to Heat Up

City Council election gathers steam

Zack Quintero, a candidate in District 2
Zack Quintero, a candidate in District 2
Courtesy Democratic Party of New Mexico

Despite the emphasis on crime and related issues, there’s always a lot of other interesting and salient news about Albuquerque always coming into view. From where we’re sitting, it’s a relative treasure trove of late, with important local news bubbling up everywhere.

If you are anything like the members of the news department here at Weekly Alibi, you probably get that news from a variety of sources, experiential, print and electronic. If you are getting your news fix mostly from Twitter however, then the Venn diagram that could be drawn to better understand our relationship will be one where two circles do not intersect.

But besides that sort of implied exclusivity—generally residing in the same realm where progressivism says no to more of the same—the following events, phenomena and ephemera are of note.

For your reading pleasure, you may pretend that each is being read to you in the fashion of an old-time radio announcer whose angst and ennui come through clearly in a blunt yet curious tone as Weekly Alibi examines and analyzes the City Council candidates receiving public financing in this year’s upcoming municipal election.

District 2

The election for City Council in District 2 (which includes much of Downtown, the university area and Barelas) is heating up in ways that were unforeseen back in January.

That’s because of two factors, by our reckoning. The Number One factor, of course, is the candidate seeking reelection, Isaac Benton. Benton was the president of the City Council in 2009 and in 2017; he’s been serving on the Council since 2005. Those dates align the Councilor with both the Chavez and the Berry administrations.

Benton’s long service to the system and the citizens could be a favorable factor for some. But for others, Benton’s alignment with Berry on projects like ART and his silence during Berry’s reign as the DOJ came to town and police numbers in the city dwindled, could be his undoing. And Benton’s memorable public confrontation—as a pro-ART spokesperson—with an angry anti-ART protester in 2016 is just that, memorable.

The second factor has to do with the candidates Benton will be facing come November. The fact that three of his opponents made the grade and qualified for public financing certainly adds spice to the sauce.

As the campaign progresses, look for news about wunderkind Zack Quintero. Quintero is a mid-twenties local who worked on a city road crew as a teen and then graduated from Georgetown before returning home to attend law school at UNM. The president of Young Democrats of New Mexico, Quintero has a solid background in economics and currently serves on the city’s Air Quality Board.

Quintero’s platform looks like a progressive’s brightest and kindest dream. The candidate’s priorities include expanding community policing efforts with specific neighborhood interface programs, creating a part-time position at the Parks Department to ensure that sharps are promptly and regularly cleaned up in city parks and targeting funding to support behavioral health and addiction issues Downtown. All of that’s super cool in our opinion.

Robert Blanquera Nelson, a transplant from Carlsbad who considers his views to be “liberal,” is also running in the mythically non-partisan election. Blanquera Nelson comes from the nonprofit sector and his website attests to his business acumen, stating that his fundraisng skills have been responsible for $9.1 million in funding.

This candidate’s platform is based in the concept of social equity. Blanquera Nelson believes in creating a housing-first policy and instituting a wage increase towards livable and sustainable levels.

The fundamental basis for this campaign seems to be Blanquera Nelson’s progressive notion that, “We need to address the deepest social inequities at their root and envision a new future for our families.”

The other candidate to receive the go ahead for public financing, Joseph R. Griego, doesn’t yet have an social media presence or web page. But city records indicate that he’s a Democrat who works in the film industry.

Of course, and as noted above, there are certainly good things and not so good things about the incumbent, Issac Benton. The good stuff includes the Councilor’s work on designating the El Vado Motel a city landmark and consistently voting to move the city toward renewable energy sources. More recently Benton called for public restrooms to be installed Downtown, a damn good idea.

District 4

Brad Winter, a conservative Republican with roots as an administrator at Albuquerque Public Schools announced that he won’t seek reelection in this traditionally right-leaning sector of the city in the Northeast Heights.

Winter’s departure is an opportunity for the Council to shed whatever remnants of its quasi-conservative rubber stamp heydey under Richard Berry remain. To that effect, two Dems and one elephant will be seeking to take the reigns from Winter.

Brook Bassan is the lone Republican in this race. She was recently named New Mexico Mother of the Year and is an officer of the NMPTA. That seems pretty decent, but we’d be apt to ask if she supports Trump before we go any further.

Hailey Josselyn Roy, the department head of Craft Services for local film union IATSE Local 480, has also worked in real estate and catering. She hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the Council. She has yet to clearly define a platform but says she is running for office because politics is not a spectator sport. Brava!

Ane Romero is a well-known and informed Burqueña Democratic policy wonk with specialties in mental health and healthcare policy who was writing NM Senate legislation when she was in college. She has a master’s degree in Public Affairs from New Mexico Highlands University.

She’s worked for the Congressional Mental Health Caucus and served as an advisor to US Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-California), working in Martin Heinrich’s office for a number of years. She also volunteers with the Girl Scouts.

Romero’s dedication as a public servant definitely shows promise and her contribution to the city’s political culture is bound to be substantive. She currently serves as the deputy legislative director for the Governor’s office; even if she does not succeed in this election, she is bound to continue rising as a local leader.

District 6

Gina Naomi Dennis, a lawyer and a donkey to boot, is pitted against the incumbent, progressive bastion incumbent Patrick Davis. Though this race and the issues confronting the candidates are slightly more complicated than in the other Council districts—crime and policing still tend to top the lists of issues facing the Southeast quadrant of town—we are still convinced of Davis’ efficacy.

His experience as an advocate of concrete and practical plans, as well as his ability to forge productive relationships with a wide-ranging number of citizens, first responders and government officials, is a very important component of the success the council has seen recently. Davis’ voice sometimes verges toward moderate. But his brand of moderate is one we can all appreciate.

Dennis, meanwhile, is a progressive who ran unsuccessfully for the Central New Mexico Community College Board and has a long history of involvement with the progressive cause in this state. She was an early supporter—in New Mexico—of Bernie Sanders.

Last month, centrist political commentator Joe Monahan seemed to have an epiphany when he stated that the candidate Dennis had been given short shrift by the media thus far in the campaign cycle. In the interview that followed, Dennis struck a combative tone, telling uncle Joe that “He [Davis] is not being honest about the crime problem.”

Though Davis can be damned for his assent to the ART project, he’s done much to revision and rehabilitate his district and has consistently demonstrated leadership qualities that don’t often veer into negativity. Davis has a clear vision of what Albuquerque is and can become.

News Editor’s Note: The print version of this article contained inaccuracies in reporting that have been corrected. Viz: Mayor Keller is not on the air quality board and City Council District 4 does not include Sandia Heights or La Cueva High School. Weekly Alibi regrets the errors.