Demo­crat Keller wins mayor’s race over Repub­li­can Lewis

State au­di­tor hand­ily wins seat with 62 per­cent of vote

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Rus­sell Contreras

AL­BU­QUERQUE — Democrats wrested con­trol of New Mex­ico’s largest city from the Repub­li­can Party on Tues­day as State Au­di­tor Tim Keller eas­ily won a race to be­come Al­bu­querque’s next mayor.

Ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial re­sults, Keller beat Repub­li­can Al­bu­querque City Coun­cilor Dan Lewis with 62 per­cent of the vote com­pared to 38 per­cent in a race that cen­tered on the city’s ris­ing crime rates and its strug­gling econ­omy. The elec­tion came a week af­ter Democrats won gov­er­nor­ships and leg­isla­tive seats in Vir­ginia and New Jer­sey and took may­oral seats in places such as He­lena, Mont.

Keller told a packed room at Al­bu­querque’s his­toric Ho­tel An­daluz that his vic­tory was a re­jec­tion of fear and “lan­guage that di­vided us” — a veiled jab at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“We em­braced in­clu­sion. We em­braced unity,” said Keller, who will re­place GOP Al­bu­querque Mayor Richard Berry, who opted not to seek re-elec­tion.

Lewis, who joined Keller in a runoff, thanked sup­port­ers and said he hoped Keller would suc­ceed as mayor. “I just wish him the very best,” Lewis said. “I want him to be a great mayor.”

Keller’s vic­tory also came a day af­ter a city ethics board ruled Keller vi­o­lated cam­paign fi­nance laws.

The board did not is­sue sanc­tions against Keller, who has been suc­cess­ful in past cam­paigns for a state leg­isla­tive seat and the state au­di­tor’s post.

Keller con­tends the vi­o­la­tions weren’t in­ten­tional, but Lewis said he was dis­ap­pointed that the ethics board let his op­po­nent off the hook de­spite find­ing that he vi­o­lated the city’s elec­tion code.

“This rul­ing serves as proof that Tim Keller lied to Al­bu­querque vot­ers and il­le­gally worked with his po­lit­i­cal al­lies to fun­nel cash to his cam­paign,” Lewis said late Mon­day. “How can we trust Tim to hold crim­i­nals in this city ac­count­able when he thinks he is above

the law him­self ?”

Keller dis­missed ac­cu­sa­tions that his cam­paign was dis­hon­est, say­ing the ethics board noted “our good faith ef­forts” and pro­vided needed clar­ity go­ing for­ward for main­tain­ing a pub­lic cam­paign fi­nance sys­tem.

In Al­bu­querque, Democrats have tra­di­tion­ally had a lock on the mayor’s of­fice. Berry was the first Repub­li­can to win the seat since the mid-1980s.

Berry said early on he would not seek re-elec­tion to a third term, set­ting the stage for the first may­oral cam­paign in 20 years with­out an in­cum­bent on the bal­lot.

It also marks the city’s first may­oral runoff since 1993. Keller and Lewis were the top two vote-get­ters in the Oct. 3 may­oral elec­tion, but the runoff was trig­gered be­cause none of the can­di­dates on the orig­i­nal bal­lot re­ceived 50 per­cent of the vote.

Keller said he wants to hire more of­fi­cers and have the Al­bu­querque Po­lice De­part­ment re­turn to neigh­bor­hood polic­ing.

Keller and Lewis both have called for re­vamp­ing the po­lice force’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is in the process of im­ple­ment­ing fed­er­ally man­dated re­forms aimed at ad­dress­ing what the U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment in 2014 called a cul­ture of ex­ces­sive force.

The may­oral cam­paign was in full swing just weeks ago as the FBI re­leased sta­tis­tics show­ing vi­o­lent crime in Al­bu­querque last year jumped around 16 per­cent.

The city had a vi­o­lent crime rate of 1,112 in­ci­dents per 100,000 res­i­dents in 2016. While the rate isn’t among the high­est in the na­tion when it comes to cities of sim­i­lar size and de­mo­graph­ics, it is well above av­er­age for cities with a pop­u­la­tion of 250,000 or more.

GREG SORBER AL­BU­QUERQUE JOURNAL VIA AP

Tim Keller cel­e­brates win­ning the Al­bu­querque mayor’s race Tues­day with his sup­port­ers at his elec­tion vic­tory party at the Ho­tel An­daluz.

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