Finance

Albuquerque Voters' Republican Gamble

When Richard Berry won a surprise victory last month for mayor of Albuquerque, voters wondered whether they had chosen new policies or merely a new...
by | October 31, 2009

When Richard Berry won a surprise victory last month for mayor of Albuquerque, voters wondered whether they had chosen new policies or merely a new face.

In picking the Republican Berry, they denied the heavily favored incumbent, Democrat Martin Chávez, a third consecutive term. Polling showed that most voters were satisfied with the direction of the city, but they nonetheless rebuked Chávez, who'd gained a reputation for prickliness during his long service.

Berry won by promising a more conciliatory style. But he also promised substantive shifts toward fiscal austerity and a tougher approach to illegal immigrants. How aggressively he'll push new programs--or even want to--is an open question. While voters brought in a Republican city council along with Berry, the city still has far more Democrats than Republicans. In fact, Berry is the first Republican mayor in 28 years. Even as Berry won, voters backed a transportation sales tax Chávez had supported and Berry had opposed.

The new mayor's first moves sent mixed signals. He chose a conservative Republican known as an immigration hard-liner as public safety director. But he tapped a Democrat as chief administrative officer. The most likely result of the upset may be a balancing act between Berry's conservative backers and his Democratic-leaning constituents. "He's too smart politically," says Brian Sanderoff, an Albuquerque pollster, "to try to run Albuquerque in a very ideological manner."

Richard J. Berry

Position: Mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Previous jobs: State legislator, building contractor

Age: 48

Photo: Enrique C. Knell

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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