Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Berry avoids mayoral runoff with general election victory

Photo: MG Bralley
Albuquerque's Mayor-elect Richard Berry says he's ready to roll-up his sleeves and get to work.

State Rep. Richard Berry avoided a runoff election and defeated three-term Mayor Marty Chavez and Richard Romero, both Democrats, in Albuquerque's 2009 municipal election on Tuesday night.

With all 186 precincts reporting, voters sent Berry to the 11th floor at City Hall with 36,466 votes or 43.83% of the total vote.

Berry, and his campagin staff, celebrated with hundreds of his supporters at the Sheraton Uptown. He told the crowd that he will focus on the job at hand and pledged to bring "commonsense leadership" to city hall.

"Bottom line is I want to serve Albuquerque. This is a great city. I want to take a commonsense approach to government. Take my business experience, my legislative experience, and just roll up my sleeves and try to move Albuquerque forward."

A city rule, which requires mayor's to devote their full attention to the post, means Berry will have to resign his seat in the legislature. The state Republican Party, will pick a resident in Berry's district, to replace him. The party will give that name to Bernalillo Commissioners who will then forward it to the Governor.

Berry, will be in Santa Fe for the special session beginning on October 17th.

Chavez, term-limited by voters, pledges a smooth transition.

Chavez told his supporters at O'Niell's Bar in Nob Hill that he'd called Berry earlier in the evening and promised a smooth transistion.

"I've spoken to RJ and congratulated him on a great campaign. He and I will be meeting at noon."

Chavez, could only muster 35.02%, or 29,140 votes. Romero, placed a distance third with 20.98% of the vote, or 17,458 votes.

Chavez, 57, told his misty-eyed supporters that it has been an incredible honor to be mayor of his hometown. His only other political loss was in 1998 to Gary Johnson for Governor of New Mexico, offered his perspective on the results.

"All you have to do is look around, to see what we have done together, to transform this community," Chavez said. "I believe in my heart these races and the mayorship, it is not a football game, it’s not a baseball game, with a winner and a loser. It’s a relay race. And each mayor has to move that baton, have to move that team forward. And, I am proud we’ve moved the city of Albuquerque forward immeasurably."

The outgoing mayor, who was first elected mayor in 1993, said someone had approached him at a polling site and told him, "Albuqeurque was like the little ugly duckling, but under your administration it's spread its wings, and today it's like a beautiful swan."

Throughout the campaign both Berry and Romero had criticized the mayor's approach to crime and the city's budget.

In fact, Berry, has been a victim of crime four times in 2009. This spring he even had his work truck stolen. Berry said he'll focus on reducing property crime and end Chavez' "sanctuary city policy for criminal."

"Public safety is number one," said Berry. "I want to do what I can as a mayor to make sure they have the resources they need to not just to do their jobs well, as they do now, but to make sure they get home safe at night.

Republicans will also have control of the city council.

Chavez was not the only incumbent defeated on Tuesday.

City Councilor Michael Cadiagan, who dropped out of the mayor's race in time to run for re-election in District 5, will be replaced by Republican Dan Lewis. With 17 of 17 precincts reporting, Lewis beat Cadigan by nearly 12%, picking up 55.98%, or 6,229 votes to Cadiagan's 44.02% or 4,898 votes.

Republican incumbent Dan Harris easily won re-election defeating David Barbour with 6,392 votes to 1,677.

Democrat incumbent Isaac Benton won re-election by defeating one-time city councilor, and incumbent Bernalillo County Commissioner Alan Armijo.

Ken Sanchez, a Democrat incumbent, was unopposed. Mike Cook received 95.69% of the vote in District 7. Incumbent Republican Sally Mayer dropped out of the race in August.

In December the council will have 5 republicans and 4 democrats.

Voters extend transportation tax, bonds, and charter amendments

Albuquerque voters approved a 10-year extension of a one-quarter cent transportation tax, $159.4 million dollars in general obligation bonds, and all 10 city charter amendments.

Since 2000, the City of Albuquerque has imposed a voter approved one-quarter cent Transportation Infrastructure Tax that provides funding for road rehabilitation, maintenance, deficiencies and transit operation.

Proponents said the tax allowed the transit department to extend bus operation hours by 28% and in the last ten years bus ridership had increase 75%.

Analysts had been closely watching the results of several propsoed charter amendments. With all 10 passing, the city attorney and city clerk will have a bit more independence from the mayor after their appointment and confirmation by city councilors.

And city councilors, who unanimously over-rode a mayoral veto of the charter amendments, could be getting a raise after voters approved a five-panel independent commission to review their and the mayor's salaries.

All the results are posted online here.

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