For Santa Fe’s three mayoral candidates, first comes the debate.

Then comes the wait.

The Santa Fe Police Officers Association plans to hold off until after a debate Thursday night to decide whether it will endorse any of the candidates running for mayor.

The union that represents local police, plus the local chapters of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, are partnering with the local arm of the Fraternal Order of Police to host the debate as the mayoral election heads into the home stretch.

Detective Rebecca Hilderbrandt, the police union’s president, said the union’s board will convene following the event to decide its next move. Mayor Alan Webber, Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and environmental engineer Alexis Martinez Johnson are battling for the seat.

“We just wanted to give the candidates a chance to speak before making the decision of whether to support a specific candidate or to just support whoever is the next mayor,” Hilderbrandt said. “Regardless of what we decide, we still have a job to do.”

This debate could be the final meeting between the candidates before voters go to the polls on Nov. 2, although early voting is already underway.

The debate will center around public safety and will be held in-person at 6 p.m. the FOP’s lodge at 3300 Calle Maria Luisa. Española police Chief Roger Jimenez will moderate the debate, which will also be livestreamed on the FOP’s Facebook page.

Local high school students helped form some of the questions, and the discussion will be held across three rounds.

Billy Perdue, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said about 150 seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Similar to the Santa Fe Police Officers Association, Perdue said the FOP will decide following the debate whether to make an endorsement.

“We haven’t committed 100 percent that we are even going to endorse,” he said. “But if we do make that endorsement, it will come after [Thursday].”

The firefighters’ union’s stance is unclear. Adan Lopez, president of the local chapter of the union, did not respond to a request for comment.

Webber’s campaign continues to tout its endorsements. Supporters include political heavyweights such as U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich. He also has won support from three of the city’s eight city councilors and several members of the Legislature.

He also was endorsed by the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and Equality New Mexico, an LGBTQ advocacy and civil rights group.

AFSCME 3999, the union that represents most city employees, made its endorsement in August, voting unanimously, according to Vice President Gil Martinez, to back Vigil Coppler.

The vote did not go without criticism as some of the other candidates have argued that they were not given a proper opportunity to interview for the endorsement.

AFSCME 3999 has been highly critical of Webber’s administration, stemming largely from a decision to furlough some city workers due to the pandemic.

(15) comments

LeRoy Sanchez

Attended the debate tonight at the FOP. Vigil Coppler the clear winner-informed, progressive and clearly on the side of working class santafesinos.

Chris Mechels

What "should" the candidates be asked?? Important questions for the police "should" be; would you go inside, or outside, SFPD for the next Chief? Reform is more likely with a Chief from outside. Another question; would you seek to reform and upgrade the SFPD training, which is the worst in the state? The Mayor could have a significant impact on the LEA training, tho Webber does not engage the problem.

Real questions. important questions. It would also be interesting, of course, to ask Webber about his role in the Elizabeth Dunham case. He has never answered for his actions in that tragedy.

Andrew Lucero

This is all for show and a mere formality… The rank and file will vote for Coppler. Those with the rank of lieutenant and above will vote for Webber. But the overall union endorsement will be for Coppler. Not that it makes much of a difference. It doesn’t really translate to many actual votes for either candidate seeing as the majority of our police officers don’t even live in the city.

American Spirit

I am voting for Joanne. The crime in Santa Fe is skyrocketing and she said she wants to fix the Harrison road issues. I’m not an expert, but handing out clean needles for new ones (the exchange) is not the answer…. I am Also voting for Gutierrez. Gutierrez speaks from the heart, and understands the problems in the community. A true native to Santa Fe.

Lupe Molina

Lol. Don't take the bait! It's a trap! Police and public departments in this town need serious reform. I'd take their endorsement as a strong suggestion of who NOT to vote for.

Dennis Romero

Lupe - after reading your sarcastic, I’ll-informed, mean sprites comments on this forum over the past several months, I’d say that anytime you express an opinion, it should be fact checked, vetted and scrutinized, as you have an agenda that seems to be to provide cover for Alan Webber and any other person, politician or action that inflicts harm upon the community.

I don’t know what made you develop your negative, mean spirited demeanor, but it is quite annoying.

Francisco Carbajal

Mr. Dennis Romero, Spot On! After reviewing Ms. Molina's negative comments for several months, I have decided to step to the plate and challenge every single response that she posts on a public forum against our "Thin Blue Line."

Lupe Molina

Hahaha! Good luck dudes. But you're going to have to try making sense first. Best of luck. Every reply you post alienates more people from your ideology. I look forward to the contest, easy as it will be.

Dennis Romero

"I’ll-informed, mean sprites comments" should read "ill-informed, mean spirited comments"

Emily Koyama

Hmmm....well, since a "sprite" (spirit) can be good OR evil, perhaps a Freudian slip.....

Stefanie Beninato

If someone wants to support Webber, then living in the US allows them to do so. You, Dennis, have made many false statements about others based on your POV. Let others do so too--Lupe is not attacking you personally.

Dennis Romero

Stefanie - no. I have not. I realize you'll develop a narrative with this claim, but it is false.

You also seem to revel in negativity and spin, Stefanie. Good luck with that.

Dennis Romero

And, Stefanie - you really should read what I wrote to Lupe yesterday. I told her to support whoever she desires. At the polls. Hearing the negativity both of you spout is annoying. You are both fully entitled to do so under the First Amendment. Have at it, but you are both annoying and any points you could make are lost by that.

Lupe Molina

Ha! I didn't address them at all! They came out of the woodwork to fluff each other and still managed to act like curmudgeons doing it.

Comment deleted.
Dennis Romero

Lupe - I just leave the whining to you, Stefanie and Janet Eduardo. Have a great day, Lupe.

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