Mayor's race could be crowded in 2013

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Three years ago, three men tried to get Albuquerque voters to elect them to the mayor's office.

Marty Chavez, seeking his fourth term as the city's mayor and Richard Romero, a former state senator, were the Democratic candidates in the hunt.

They split the majority of the city's vote. However about 44 percent went for Republican Richard J. Berry, a former state rep and construction entrepreneur, enough for him to win without a runoff. Berry's election put a Republican mayor in city hall for the first time since Harry Kinney's second and final term ended in 1985.

Three years after his election, Mayor Berry appears in good standing with city residents. An Albuquerque Journal poll released in October found Berry had a 68 percent approval rating citywide. Even 55 percent of Democrats surveyed liked the job Berry is doing.

Berry has not officially decided to run for reelection. His office released a statement saying he will consult with his family to make that decision. Former mayor Jim Baca thinks that if Berry does decide to run, he's the odds-on favorite.

"I think it's his race to lose," Baca said in a phone interview. "But you know what, with politics [these days] anything can happen."

There appear to be no shortage of Democratic hopefuls eyeing a chance to run against him. Former Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, State Treasurer James Lewis and state Senator Tim Keller are three who could be looking at getting into the race.

Current city councilor Ken Sanchez and Pete Dinelli, Albuquerque's former public safety director, are two who confirmed to KRQE News 13 that they're seriously looking at entering the 2013 campaign.

"I've met with well over 200 people and almost on a daily basis I will sit down and try and talk to people about issues," Dinelli said. "I'm reaching out to individuals to try to determine if I can put together an organization to be a viable candidate."

Dinelli is not worried about Berry's current approval ratings.

"A poll doesn't elect an individual, the people do," Sanchez said. " I just feel I have a lot to offer to this community."

Sanchez is not worried either.

"Whoever can throw together some sort of vision for the city and is able to communicate that to the public, they're going to have the best chance," Baca said.

In 2009, many felt Richard Romero played spoiler for Martin Chavez's reelection bid by having too many Democrats in the race. Well-connected city Republicans say there is little chance of something similar happening to Berry in 2013.

A big factor that could weigh on the 2013 election is a possible change to the city's runoff election rules. A local group is circulating petitions to change Albuquerque's charter, forcing a runoff election if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote. Right now, a runoff is only held if a candidate falls short of 40 percent.

Albuquerque has not had a mayor chosen by a majority of voters since Chavez was elected to his first term in 1993.

Paul Broome, a spokesperson for the petition effort, says the group has already collected significantly more signatures than the 12,000 plus they'll need to force a special election on the issue. Under city rules that special election would have to be held in time for the October 2013 election.

Copyright 2014 KRQE TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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