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Things get interesting in an election year. And what an election this could be, considering the drama already brewing in the mayor’s race. There are seats up for contention at the City Council table as well.

West Side Story

There are five out of nine council seats up for election including all three districts on the Westside. The city’s Westside sprawls across the Rio Grande Mesa, taking in a wide range range of neighborhoods and encompassing a good chunk of the city’s population. The views to the east are crowned by the Sandias. The area is diverse with different needs as one travels from neighborhood to neighborhood. Crime sprinkles its way into daily life, as it does all across the Duke City. On and off over the years, someone will suggest that the Westside form its own city, but it never gets much traction.

To introduce the contenders to the voters, we emailed out a few simple questions to the candidates, only two responded by the deadline—so for the others, we pulled information from their public campaign websites and/or other public statements.

So let’s take an early look at who will be on the ballot come Nov. 2.

District 1

This is a funny-shaped district. The city’s website says it is on the Central Westside, but it jigs and jags making it look like a hatchet across the mesa. There are two candidates looking to fill this seat.

Lan Sena

Sena was appointed to fill the seat left when Councilor Ken Sanchez died on New Year’s Day 2020. Therefore, even though she is an incumbent, this is her first election. She gets a gold star for answering our questions on time. Sena was born and raised in Albuquerque and was the first Asian-American to serve on the City Council. Sena says that community safety offenses, whether it’s speeders or car stealers, is the number one issue in her district. Sena said the soon-to-be, up-and-running new community safety department will help address what is a public health issue as well. She said she brings a unique perspective to the City Council, and Westside residents can count on her to continue to work for their unique needs. She has a campaign Facebook page at facebook.com/Sena4ABQ.

Louie Sanchez

This candidate is a former Albuquerque Police officer who retired in 2014, according to his campaign website. After tackling the streets as a copper, Sanchez became an insurance guy by setting up his own Allstate Agency.

Sanchez says on his website he is committed to improving the city’s police department. He also says he will work to increase the number of lanes and roads that cross the Rio Grande to improve gridlock. Check him out here louiesanchezforabq.com

District 3

This district is not as jagged and random as the other two districts. More like a lopsided square, it takes in the neighborhoods on the southwest part of the city from south of Central Ave. to Dennis Chavez Blvd. and west of Coors Blvd. to the county line. There are two candidates vying for the job to represent this area.

Klarissa Peña

Councilor Klarissa Peña is the incumbent. She was elected in 2013. She was born and raised in Albuquerque’s South Valley. She has been married to Johnny Peña for more than 35 years, raising six kids in the process. Peña has a history of community involvement. She has been an active council member, serving as council president in 2019. She is a past president of the Southwest Alliance of Neighbors and was the former executive director for the West Central Community Development Group. She says she wants to continue to work to build a community where there are opportunities for everyone. Her campaign website is klarissapena.com

Anthony Zamora

This candidate says he is a veteran of several military deployments and president of his kid’s school’s parent teacher association. His website says he is the son of a first-generation Filipino-American, and second-generation Mexican-American. He has lots of words on his campaign pages. You can see who he is at az4nm.com. Zamora says on his mission statement page that he wants to establish communication avenues that bring city-level access to everyone in this district to ensure a future developed for children. He says he wants to pass legislation promoting goodwill within the community like policing neighborhoods and holding elected officials accountable.

District 5

Another weird-shaped district on the northwest side of the city kind of looks like a scrappy arrowhead with a hole in the middle. There are three candidates for this district with the incumbent facing two challengers.

Cynthia Borrego

Borrego is the incumbent. She was elected in 2017 and serves as the current council president. Borrego gets another gold star for turning in her answers to our questions by the deadline. We asked what the most pressing issue facing her district is, and she said getting the community to trust law enforcement and for law enforcement to feel safe in their positions. She added that to help solve this more resources need to be dedicated to the root causes of crime, like mental illness, substance abuse and poverty. Her campaign website is cynthiaborrego.com.

Dan Lewis

Lewis has been around the council table before. He sat on the council representing this district from 2009 to 2017 when he decided to run for mayor instead of a third term. He lost the run-off election with current Mayor Tim Keller. His public campaign website is lewis4abq.com. He has said he is entering back into the political arena because he thinks his experience as a proven job creator can make a positive difference on the Westside. He says he will work to improve Westside roadways and upgrading public facilities.

Phillip Ramirez

Ramirez was raised in Albuquerque. He is not using public financing. According to his website, he says he is running for City Council because Albuquerque needs a non-bureaucratic voice in city hall. He says, for too long, the political insiders and elites have been Albuquerque’s voices. He works in his family’s construction business. Ramirez says he want to increase funding for law enforcement and work to improve relations between the public and the police department. His campaign website is philforabq.com

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