The Santa Fe municipal election won’t happen for months — Nov. 2 to be exact. But decisions made in the next days or weeks will have profound implications for the sorts of choices voters will have come election time.

That’s because anyone who wants to run for a seat on the City Council or for the job of mayor needs to qualify this summer. Candidate packets have been available since May 3. Now, candidates have to deliver nominating petitions to ensure their spot on the ballot. And time is running out.

Anyone who hopes to use public financing must file petitions by Monday with the City Clerk’s Office. To qualify, mayoral candidates must collect $5 from 600 eligible city voters; councilor candidates need $5 apiece from 150 voters registered to vote in their council district.

Candidates who plan to use private dollars have until Aug. 24 to file with the clerk, giving late deciders a little more time to make up their minds.

While we won’t say the more the merrier, competitive races work to sharpen issues and focus. They are good for democracy.

In Santa Fe, the election happens through ranked choice voting, a sort of instant runoff that ensures whoever wins has a majority of support.

Ranked choice voting allows voters in races with more than two candidates to select not just one favorite but to rank the candidates in order of preference. Voters also can choose just one favorite. It’s up to each voter.

Regardless of how voters decide to mark their ballots, we want them to have choices.

Different candidates tend to air a diverse number of concerns — everything from how to secure a long-term water supply, deal with growth, develop the midtown campus, help people who lack shelter and deliver standard city services in a timely, efficient manner.

We’d love to hear from council candidates their views on more efficient cleaning and maintenance of parks, medians and other public spaces. Others might have plans to improve pedestrian safety and ensure Santa Fe is friendlier for people who walk or bike for transportation. Of course, there will be discussions on what should happen in the center of the Plaza — whether to replace or to rebuild the toppled obelisk — and how the city can heal after the many tensions of the past months.

Much remains for voters and candidates to discuss.

Santa Fe needs candidates who can speak in specifics about problems, offer solutions and forcefully debate the issues without being rude. This is not a time to speak in platitudes but to lay out how to run city government with the needs of residents first and foremost.

First, we need candidates.

Mayor Alan Webber is seeking reelection, with Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and former congressional candidate Alexis Martinez Johnson opposing him.

Incumbent Councilor Signe Lindell definitely has competition in District 1 — businessman Joe Hoback, planning commissioner and tow shop owner Brian Gutierrez and real estate agent Roger Carson all have picked up candidate packets.

In District 3, incumbent Roman Abeyta could be facing local businessman Lee Garcia, while the open seat in District 4 is attracting interest from educator Amanda Chavez, Department of Health employee Rebecca Romero and County Assessor Gus Martinez. So far, District 2 incumbent Carol Romero-Wirth, who is seeking her second term, has no opposition.

We’d love to see competitive races in each council district, even if it turns out incumbents deserve reelection. Vigorous and informed debate drives up turnout and leads to innovative solutions — the ones people in office might have missed.

Elections need to be about solutions, not personal popularity. That’s how we plan our future — together.

(12) comments

Chris Mechels

Its unclear that Ranked Choice voting is a good idea. As Webber, an unqualified candidate, demonstrated, RC works for those who, like Webber, come with big PR and lots of money. This sets them up to do well "down ballot", after the first round.

If we are to continue with RC, it should be coupled with limits on campaign spending, lest a candidate simply "buys" the election as Webber did. Webber said he favored the RC process, but of course wouldn't accept the limits, and public financing. Much like Obama, who applauded limits, but not for him...

Anyone who applauds limits, but not for him, should be disqualified, or imprisoned, as dangerous to the public welfare.

Mike Johnson

I think RC voting is basically a scam. I have a hard time finding even 1 person I will vote for, I leave many races with no votes from me. I can't imagine ever wanting to vote for more than 1 candidate. Do people really have that low a standards that there are several they want to elect? Illogical.

Joe Brownrigg

It is your thinking that is a scam.

Yes, candidates often stink. Sometimes we have to vote holding our noses. But that does not mean ranked choice voting is bad.

I noticed in our first experience with ranked choice that the candidates were MUCH more civil. (They didn't want to offend down-ballot candidates.) IN THIS ATMOSPHERE, being civil is a major PLUS.

They also stayed away from empty platitudes (not entirely, but more so). Some even presented reasonable arguments. One candidate who attempted to win on his (he thought) flashy style, got the LEAST votes.

Ranked Choice? I'm all for it.

Mike Johnson

And of course we know who the esteemed editorial board will endorse here, all the council incumbents and Webber, that should give you context into this Op/Ed.

Khal Spencer

Your last sentence left me laughing. Politics is of course about personalities. Hillary Clinton had the personality of a box of rocks even though she was credibly a policy wonk. She lost to Trump. Bill Clinton was all about personality. He won.

Joe Brownrigg

and both of them were bad choices, Khal.

I'd prefer credible ideas and values, rather than the most popular toothpaste. :-)

Khal Spencer


Stefanie Beninato

Then whom do you vote for? So far we have heard only platitudes and complaints from Vigil Coppler--no policies, no plans. Her record shows consistent support of development over neighborhoods and consistent opposition to historic preservation.

Stefanie Beninato

Actually if you met Hiliary Clinton one on one you would find her engaging with a great sense of humor....Yes she was not a good public speaker

Joe Brownrigg

She is a neo-con hawk. POLICY matters more than toothpaste appeal.

Khal Spencer

I don't know, Joe. Have you ever accidentally put the dog's toothpaste on your toothbrush?

Khal Spencer

Yes, I think she has a great sense of humor. A lot of the folks in the area I grew up in (rural Upstate NY) got a huge laugh out of her "basket of deplorables" comment and were still laughing as they voted for that guy in the red hat.

In addition to Joe's comment, she was going around giving $250k a speech appearances, harvesting money from bigshots, aka influence peddling. The Clintons loved money more than they loved policy.

The reason Trump was elected, as Michael Moore said, was that Hillary was an awful candidate. I held my nose with both hands going into the voting booth to vote for her, mainly because I knew then that Trump would be a disaster. The last time I voted enthusiastically for a presidential candidate was for Barack Obama.

As far as the city elections, my vote will go to whomever promises to put their efforts into making city government run well, not to the person who promises to be the most progressive candidate. City elections are about the water, garbage, police, fire, potholes, weeds, sewers, and homeless.

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