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.