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Update: 2017 Mayor’s Race

Even though he has said he will not seek a third, four-year term, there’s still talk that Mayor Berry could reverse himself, especially if his chances don’t look good for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination he has an eye on

Joe Monahan mugIn our last column we noted that speculation over who will seek to become Albuquerque’s next mayor in 2017 has barely risen to the level of a murmur, but there are contenders quietly emerging and some testing of the waters.

Names circulating include Democratic City Councilor Ken Sanchez, GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis, GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, former New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon and New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller.

And even though he has said he will not seek a third, four-year term, there’s still talk that Mayor Berry could reverse himself, especially if his chances don’t look good for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination he has an eye on.

The chattering class is also enjoying speculating about the future of Gov. Susana Martinez during these lazy days of summer. Much will depend on how she fares in the three years remaining in her second term.

She has so far dodged some powerful potential bullets – chief among them the stagnant economy – but Auditor Keller has been holding her feet to the fire with a probe of her taxation and revenue secretary. Second terms often bring that sort of trouble in piles.

If she beats the odds and remains popular (both two-term governors who served before her – Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson – finished their tenures with approval ratings in the tank), Dems think she could take a shot at Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich in 2018.

As for the likelihood of her being the GOP vice-presidential choice for the 2016 ticket, that talk has dissipated. Seventeen candidates are seeking the presidential nomination. The VP pick is likely to be one of the 16 losers.

Another option for Martinez is getting out of politics and making a lot of money by being appointed to corporate boards, authoring a book and delivering paid speeches. That would be similar to the path taken by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. It’s on the table for Martinez not because of her performance as governor but due to her status as the nation’s first female Hispanic governor.

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That little tax increase proposed for the Albuquerque BioPark that city voters will decide in the Oct. 6 election could become a big deal, but analysts say that would probably take big money. So far there are no reports of any groups organizing to buy advertising against the one-eighth cent increase in the gross receipts tax.

The tax would raise an estimated $17 million a year for 15 years and finance capital improvements at the BioPark, which includes the zoo, Tingley Beach, the botanic garden and the aquarium.

Early polling shows the public disposed toward approving the levy but that could change in the face of a negative ad blitz. The turnout for the city election will be an older electorate and weighted toward the conservative side. The opportunity to persuade those voters to turn down a tax increase is there but without vocal opposition, supporters of the increase are confident they will prevail.

And what about that proposal on the ballot to amend the City Charter and give the city council confirmation power over the mayor’s selection for police and fire chiefs? After all the turmoil at APD, political pros say this one should be a winner.

If it does pass it will be one of the more significant power shifts away from the executive branch and to the council since the modern form of government was ushered in back in 1974. But it could have been worse for future mayors. The original proposal would have given the City Council not only the power to confirm the chiefs but also to fire them.

If any of the forthcoming city political questions catches your attention and you’re not registered to vote, you still have time. The last day to register is Sept. 8. Information is on the city clerk’s website or you can call 924-3650.

Not that anyone expects a stampede to the polls. The experts say only about 10 percent of the city’s registered voters can be expected to cast ballots in October. There are about 350,000 voters registered, so that would mean a turnout in the neighborhood of 35,000.

— Joe Monahan is a veteran of New Mexico politics. His daily blog can be found at joemonahan.com.

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Albuquerque’s definitive alternative newspaper publishing an inquisitive, modern approach to the news and entertainment stories that matter most to New Mexicans. ABQ Free Press’ fresh voice speaks to insightful and involved professionals who care deeply about our community.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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