Four years ago, Daniel “Danny” Maki was part of Team JoAnne Vigil Coppler.
During Vigil Coppler’s first foray into politics, Maki briefly served in an unofficial advisory role for the fledgling candidate, helping chart a successful path to a District 4 seat on the City Council.
Fast-forward one election cycle.
Vigil Coppler now is running for mayor, but Maki — as is sometimes common in the ever-changing world of campaign management — has become the field director for her chief rival, Mayor Alan Webber.
It’s the type of development that adds drama to a political campaign, particularly in a town like Santa Fe, where political connections often overlap and sometimes veer into personal and familial arenas.
Maki’s decision to work with Webber has certainly caught the attention of Vigil Coppler, who said she was surprised Maki — the husband of city Finance Director Mary McCoy and the son of former Bill Richardson congressional staffer Walter “Butch” Maki — opted to join the mayor’s campaign.
Vigil Coppler acknowledged she was concerned about Maki’s decision due to his familiarity with her campaign in 2018.
Maki, who operates the consulting firm Maki Campaign Solutions, said the situation was common for campaign staffers, and he didn’t see his presence in the mayoral race as an issue. He added Vigil Coppler never reached out to him about working on her mayoral campaign.
“My business is I manage campaigns,” Maki said. “I run campaigns. That is what I do. There is a big difference between a City Council race and a mayoral race.”
A field director is one of the more important positions in a political campaign and often involves coordinating a field plan and overseeing community outreach, among other key tasks.
Maki said he chose to work for Webber’s campaign because the mayor’s values align with his.
“I work for people who follow what I believe in with noble energy for climate change, for helping the homeless and social justice,” he said.
Maki also served as campaign manager for City Councilors Michael Garcia and Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez in 2019.
Still, Vigil Coppler said she hoped Maki would remain neutral.
“That is not a deterrent to my campaign and to the strength that I have,” she said. “I think it’s evident that perhaps my opposition’s campaign isn’t on target with getting the best, most reasonable people. But my campaign is moving forward very strongly.”
Kathleen Sabo, executive director of New Mexico Ethics Watch, said the concept of switching sides is fairly common, likening the phenomena to sports where rival coaches and players are ofter lured away from competitors.
On the other hand, she added, it’s also common to hear of campaign staffers who choose not to “switch teams.”
Sascha Anderson, a spokeswoman for Webber’s campaign, said officials were aware of Maki’s work on Vigil Coppler’s campaign in 2018.
“Danny is a member of our team [and] this campaign because he firmly believes that Alan is a great mayor and the best candidate,” Anderson wrote in an email. She declined to comment further.
Webber could not be reached for comment.
Former congressional candidate Alexis Martinez Johnson is the third candidate in the race. The election is Nov. 2.