ALBUQUERQUE — The mayor of New Mexico’s largest city appeared to fend off more conservative challengers in the Democratic Party, taking 56 percent of the votes cast in a three-way race as ballots continued to be counted late Tuesday.
Mayor Tim Keller was confronting questions about his ability to contain crime with plans and programs that focus on the root causes, such as addiction and poverty.
His challengers include two-term Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, who backed a move by then-President Donald Trump to send more federal law enforcement agents to Albuquerque. Eddy Aragon, owner of a conservative radio station, also was seeking the top job in Albuquerque, describing a city afflicted by crime and economic insecurity.
Early returns indicated Albuquerque voters were not in favor of a $50 million bond measure that would help pay for a new stadium. New Mexico United for All — a political action committee bankrolled by the New Mexico United soccer team — has been the biggest fundraiser and spender in the city election.
As polls closed, Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover described robust voter participation, with more 30 percent in casting ballots in the county.
By 5 p.m., about 216,000 people had voted in person and by absentee ballot across New Mexico in consolidated local elections. In comparison, about 224,000 votes were cast statewide in 2019 local elections — or 18 percent of registered voters.
Keller spent the day visiting polling sites and talking with voters. He told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday he believed the campaign had been one about what kind of leadership residents want in a time of crisis.
“These are tough times for Albuquerque, whether it’s COVID or crime or homelessness,” he said. “I believe we’ve built a foundation to deal with those issues in a real way. And we’ve got to continue and follow through with those.”
Concerns about crime came to a head this summer when Albuquerque surpassed a record for homicides within a calendar year, a tally that continued to grow in the days ahead of the election.
Affordable housing has been a leading issue in New Mexico’s largest city, where Keller blamed the pandemic for a surge in homelessness.