Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber deserves the Tail-gunner Joe McCarthy demerit for his performance over the weekend.
McCarthy was a Republican U.S. senator from Wisconsin who claimed communists had infiltrated America’s military and intelligence agencies. Why, hundreds of known communists were at work in the State Department, McCarthy claimed.
Webber took a similar approach with his shrill statement: “MAGA and QAnon are real in Santa Fe, and they will stop at nothing to take over the Mayor’s office,” he wrote in a campaign email.
It’s one of the more inaccurate statements in the long, polluted history of demagoguery.
Webber’s evidence is nonexistent that radical and dangerous right-wingers can somehow grab control of liberal Santa Fe. His claims would sound like a joke if he weren’t using them as an insidious campaign tactic.
The mayor likes to play the martyr. He’s not especially good at it, but it’s an attempt to divert attention from the main issue in the election, which has nothing to do with QAnon or former President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again supporters.
Webber and every other mayor have the same job description. They are supposed to deliver basic services efficiently.
Voters will judge Webber on that basis. Police conduct and response times, fiscal responsibility, and the condition of city streets, parks and the golf course are among the particulars that will determine whether voters return him to office for a second term.
Another truth about the November election is already apparent: A Democrat will continue to be mayor of Santa Fe.
Either City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler or Webber will win the nonpartisan election.
Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson will finish third. To be sure, many earnest and law-abiding supporters of Trump will vote for Martinez Johnson. Good for them. Every qualified voter gets to cast a ballot. That’s what happens in a democracy.
At first glance, Martinez Johnson’s presence in the election looks like it should help Webber. Voters dissatisfied with the mayor’s job performance might split enough votes between the two challengers to weaken Vigil Coppler.
But if the race between Vigil Coppler and Webber is tight, Republican voters might swing it to Vigil Coppler by making her their second choice for mayor.
Under Santa Fe’s weird system of ranked-choice voting, a second-place vote comes into play if no candidate breaks 50 percent in the initial count.
Most people in Santa Fe won’t subscribe to Webber’s claims that wacko right-wingers are trying by any means necessary to take over the mayor’s office. They know it can’t happen.
Webber’s claim accompanies his many complaints about dirty politicking, though he can’t pin them on Vigil Coppler or Martinez Johnson.
“We’ve seen the Trumpian MAGA conspiracy theorists promote videos that paint me as a Marxist hell-bent on destroying our community, the antisemitic cartoon depicting me with the bigoted trope of an enlarged nose, and the purported non-profits run by Trump supporters who are illegally electioneering with a QAnon sympathizer for a publicist,” Webber wrote.
Santa Fe County Clerk Katharine Clark and her staff will run a free, fair and accurate election. Beyond that, Webber’s gripes about his critics won’t change a fundamental truth about Santa Fe’s electorate.
Most Republicans and many Democrats won’t vote for Webber, but in almost every instance, their decision will have nothing to do with his being Jewish. Likewise, most who won’t vote for Vigil Coppler won’t reject her because she’s Hispanic.
The key to victory — or defeat — is how Webber has done in administering city services. Or put another way, would Vigil Coppler be better at running the city? The job on most days is no more glamorous than sweeping the streets after the Zozobra celebration.
Gender might be more of a factor in the election than ethnicity. Santa Fe has only had one female mayor, Debbie Jaramillo, who served a single term that ended in 1998. Many voters might be willing to interrupt the long male dominance of the mayor’s office. But that, too, depends on their confidence in Vigil Coppler.
Webber won in 2018 partly because he was the only one of the five mayoral candidates who had not worked at city hall. Being an outsider was an enormous advantage.
He has a record to run on this time. He’ll have to defend it. That is harder than reciting a fairy tale about MAGA and QAnon being credible threats to control the mayor’s office.
Vigil Coppler is the only one who can end Webber’s political career, and she’s not someone the QAnon crowd would care for.