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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales’ hopes of accessing public funding for his mayoral bid may soon come to an end. With just 8 days to go until qualifying closes, the candidate is far from reaching the city’s qualifying requirements to unlock more than $600,000 in public funds for his campaign. Failing to receive that money would put him at a huge disadvantage against Keller who will certainly qualify.

For a mayoral candidate to be eligible for $600,000 in public funding from the city, a candidate must receive public financing contributions of $5 from at least 1% of votersThat works out to 3,779 contributions showing support that each mayoral candidate has to collect in just over 60 days. As of June 7, Gonzalez has only managed to gather 67 percent of that required amount with a little over a week to go. Mayor Keller currently has 98 percent of the contributions necessary to qualify for public funding. 

Further complicating matters, Gonzales is now accused of funding at least one of those contributions from his own pocket. That, if true, is a potential violation of law and could lead to him being disqualified from receiving public funds even if he qualifies.

Gonzales made national headlines last week when a drone with a dildo attached interrupted a campaign event. A video of the incident showed a man punching the drone out of the air. Gonzales accused incumbent Mayor Tim Keller of staging the interruption. Keller denied any involvement.


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Gonzales officially announced his intention to run for Mayor in March after almost two years of teasing that he would do so. The Bernalillo County sheriff touts himself as a tough-on-crime Democrat. After Keller and other prominent local Democrats denounced plans by Trump’s administration to send federal agents into “lawless” cities, Gonzales appeared at the White House in an event with Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr appointed Gonzales to a DOJ task force on mental health, though it is not clear if the group ever met.

Gonzales and the Trump administration settled on the deployment of 35 federal officers to be stationed in New Mexico’s largest city as part of Operation Legend.

Gonzales’ cooperation with the Trump administration in Operation Legend looks to be haunting him in a city that has historically leaned Democrat and continues to shift left. Albuquerque voters soundly rejected attempts by Republican Mark Moores to paint Democrat Melanie Stansbury as weak on crime and a supporter of defunding police during a recent special Congressional election. Like Gonzales, Moores attempted to build a coalition of conservatives and moderates with a tough-on-crime platform.

In the first roughly fifty days of qualifying, Gonzales has gathered 2,542 of the $5 contributions, putting him well below the 3,779 needed to access the city’s public funding for mayoral candidates, according to the City of Albuquerque’s official website. That works out to roughly 50 new contributions per day. In order to meet the 3,779 threshold in 8 days, Gonzales would have to collect more than 150 new donations per day, triple his current rate.

Keller has gathered 3,703. June 19 is the final date for candidates to submit their campaign contributions to the city. If a candidate cannot obtain the necessary 3,779 contributions, the $5 contributions they collect do not go to the candidate. Those funds remain in the city’s public finance fund for other mayor and council campaigns, meaning funds raised by Gonzales could, ironically, be used to pay for Keller’s campaign if Gonzales fails to qualify.

If Gonzales fails, it looks like Keller will be without a major challenger for reelection. No prominent Republican state politicians have entered the race. Mayor Keller won the previous Mayoral race in 2018 with 62 percent of the vote, defeating Republican candidate Dan Lewis by 25 points. 

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