Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Not only was Republican Richard J. Berry elected mayor of Albuquerque yesterday, but the G.O.P. also took control of the Albuquerque City Council, as the New Mexico Independent reports:
GOP challenger Richard Berry surprised even himself Tuesday, knocking off longtime Democratic Mayor Martin Chavez and avoiding a two-man runoff while doing it.
Berry, a two-term Republican state legislator, bested Chavez in convincing fashion, collecting nearly 44 percent of votes to Chavez's 35 percent. Richard Romero received nearly 21 percent of the vote. Only provisional ballots remained to be counted early Wednesday.
City Councilor Michael Cadigan lost a bid Tuesday to serve another four-year term, altering the makeup of the city council at a time when the city's growth has emerged as a major consideration. Cadigan lost to newcomer Dan Lewis in a race that some said was part of an organized campaign. Some city council members charged that a large California developer had targeted Cadigan as an opponent of a special tax plan to help the developer pay for roads, water and sewers for a huge mixed-use development on the city's west side.
Democrats were quick to point out that more voters supported their two candidates for mayor, Romero and Chavez, than supported Berry. If Albuquerque had a 50% requirement to win or had partisan primaries, yesterday's vote would only have been a prelude to a showdown between Chavez and Berry. If Albuquerque had instant-runoff voting, there's a chance that Chavez would have been reelected mayor last night.
Nonetheless, Chavez can't complain too much about the rules when, as an incumbent mayor and long-time Albuquerque political fixture, he could muster barely more than a third of the vote. Berry's performance was strong enough that he might very well have picked up enough of Romero's support (or enough of Romero's supporters might have stayed home) for the Republican to win a runoff.
Chavez, a politician who occasionally aspired to statewide office, may have just seen his political career come to an end. Ironically, as voters booted Chavez from office, they also voted to extend one of his priorities: a sales tax that funds road and transit projects. Berry opposed the tax extension.
By the way, if you're looking for warning signs for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it's also worth noting that Chavez overturned a term limits law to run again.
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