Joe Hoback has a strategy for snatching the District 1 City Council seat from incumbent Signe Lindell.
The way he sees it, about 35 percent of voters in the north side district are likely to vote for Lindell. Hoback also figures about 35 percent will vote for one of her three challengers — a group that includes city Planning Commission Chairman Brian Patrick Gutierrez and local Realtor Roger Carson.
The remaining third of the district’s electorate? That’s the group of voters Hoback, a local businessman, is targeting as he and his fellow challengers take aim at the second-term councilwoman.
“The middle 30 percent is where I am going — those people who are on the fence, those people who are turned off with city politics,” said Hoback. “They may vote, but they don’t have a lot of history.”
Hoback’s strategy may be easier said than done: Lindell, the incumbent in the race, has won 70 percent of the vote in both 2014 and 2018, and she said her success at the polls is indicative of her support.
“People in the district know me,” said Lindell, who is retired. “I can walk down any street and someone will toot their horn and say, ‘Hey, how is it going?’ ”
Lindell has an edge in campaign contributions: Shortly after announcing her bid for reelection in March, she had a war chest in excess of $40,000. According to a report released Sept. 24, that number has risen to $77,000, much more than her competitors have been able to muster.
Gutierrez, the only publicly financed candidate in the race, said he needs to determine the best use of his limited funding — about $15,000 — as the race heads into its final weeks. He noted one campaign mailer could eat up half of what he has.
Hoback and Carson each have raised about $8,000, albeit with support from personal loans.
Gutierrez, noting an older population in District 1, said using money strategically is critical in an upstart campaign.
“One thing that always sticks in the back of my mind is D1 has the highest elder population of the districts,” Gutierrez said. “Are these guys on social media? Is it money well spent?”
District 1 has long been seen as the older, more affluent — and more politically engaged — area of Santa Fe, encompassing the Plaza and downtown.
Gutierrez, who owns his own business, located in City Council District 3, said he’s primarily relied on door-to-door campaigning to relay his vision, but unlike Hoback, he doesn’t think targeting a specific area is a winning strategy to target specific voters.
“You don’t want to exclude anyone when you’re running the race,” he said. “People might surprise you. There are new voters out there, and there are voters that might be upset about different things in the city, and this is the election that drives people to vote.”
Hoback said his outreach strategy has generally been in line with the other candidates: grassroots, boots on the ground, outreach.
“It’s all retail politics,” he said. “It’s about shaking hands.”
Carson, president-elect of the Santa Fe Realtors Association, said he’s hoping to knock on thousands of doors by the time voters cast ballots on Nov. 2. He said so far he’s reached out to about 1,500.
He said it’s key to pull in voters who perhaps haven’t been at the polls in some time.
“Just because they haven’t voted in a while doesn’t mean they won’t vote,” he said.
Forty-one percent of the 17,306 registered voters in District 1 voted in 2018, according to the City Clerk’s Office.
County Clerk Katharine Clark, whose office will run the city election for the first time, said she doesn’t expect a big turnout. But Carson said he’s hoping for a flood of voters, reasoning the better the turnout, the better chance Lindell’s challengers will have.
Carson said he also believes ranked-choice voting — a system in which voters rank their choices in order of preference instead of picking just one — will play an expanded role in the race.
“It’s only with ranked choice where I think that it is a viable race,” Carson said. “If it were a straight election, I think the odds would be different with an incumbent. If you don’t take it all in the first round, you better hope a lot of people think you would be a pretty good second choice.”
Gutierrez agreed with Carson, noting there was probably a time when if he saw a rival candidate’s sign in the front yard, he probably wouldn’t bother knocking on the door. But with ranked choice, every voter is fair game.
“With ranked choice, I am not excluding anyone,” he said. “You want your core of voters, and also to be everyone else’s second choice.”
Gutierrez said ranked choice also prompts a race with a bit more civility. Carson said that was evident Wednesday during a candidates forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County.
In a forum devoid of personal attacks, candidates highlighted affordable housing, fixing the city’s land use code, providing support for social programs and solving some of the cultural issues facing Santa Fe as priorities if they were elected to office.
“That’s the way it should be,” Carson said.
Hoback is convinced that for Lindell to win, she has to have a knockout in the first round.
“My thing is, if Signe doesn’t not get 50 percent the first round, there is a chance there will be change,” he said.
Lindell appears unfazed by the challenge. She said she’s running a campaign that focuses on her strengths, not her rivals.
“It’s not about my opponents, it’s about my message and what I want to get done,” Lindell said.