The weathered civic habit of waiting until after Fiestas to declare candidacy for Santa Fe city elections is officially dead. It had to be. With elections moving backward from March to November thanks to voters approving election consolidation, candidates have no time to spare.
Alysia Lori Abbott knows what running out of time feels like. The candidate for District 2 came in just under the wire to file petition signatures with the city clerk to earn her a spot on the ballot.
Abbott says she got serious about campaigning for the seat after attending a contentious City Council meeting earlier this month, where opposition to the so-called "casita amendment" boiled over in chambers. She tells SFR she wants to "provide a voice for preservation and long-term planning" in the city's longstanding housing crisis.
Her choice left about 72 hours to gather 79 signatures before the July 10 deadline to join Michael J Garcia in the race. He declared his intention to run in May.
Hers will be an unusual campaign.
"I do not want to run a competitive campaign," says Abbott, a PhD who has lived in the same house near the Rose Park since 1999 and runs her own small business, Abboteck Inc. Professional Archaeological Services. "We can talk about the issues together and sort of double the voice regardless of who ends up being elected. I do not want to refer to him as my opponent."
District 2 encompasses the region south and east of downtown Santa Fe, east of Cerrillos Road. The spot is up for grabs as Councilor Peter Ives steps down from the job he's held since 2012.
Garcia grew up in the Bellamah neighborhood, moved away to earn a master's degree in public administration and returned to the city to live on Jay Street about seven years ago. His most developed message so far is about building community by "empowering those who feel like they have no voice."
"More times than not, because of an economic situation or an age situation, folks feel like, 'Those folks don't represent me.' That's what we need to change," he tells SFR. "I would hopefully work … enough to be seen as somebody the community can believe in and trust and feel like they can bring all their ideas, thoughts, concerns, problems and fun stuff to."
Garcia graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1997 and has worked for the last eight years at a federal agency called the Corporation for National Community Service, which oversees the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs.
Santa Fe's city elections feature one seat from each of four geographic districts and one citywide race. Municipal Judge Virginia Vigil and councilors Renee Villarreal and Chris Rivera, of northside District 1 and District 3 in the south and west, respectively, are seeking re-election with no opposition.
Councilor Mike Harris is leaving south-central District 4's seat, and that contest has drawn the most candidates. Of three in the race, two are political newcomers, but none is new to Santa Fe. Greg Scargall, who ran for the spot in 2018, is trying again while Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez and Xavier Anderson are making a first run for office.
All of them grew up in the City Different.
Cassutt-Sanchez, a 2003 graduate of Santa Fe High School, recently returned with her husband and 10-month-old son to live in a home her family owns in Park Plazas. She's keenly aware of the challenges for people like her who want to come home.
"If we did not have the assistance from my family of being able to live in their house at a rate that we could afford, Santa Fe was not really within our grasp," she tells SFR. "And it is a shame that we have a lot of other young families or individuals who grew up here who would like to be boomerangers, as the mayor refers to us, but they don't really see the opportunities in Santa Fe."
Cassutt-Sanchez has a master's degree in public health, and says that's the lens through which she views the future.
"All policy is health policy," she tells SFR. "That is really a big driver for me. … How do we improve people's lives so it can impact their health and well-being?"
Scargall, a US Navy veteran who served in the Middle East, has worked at the Veterans Resource Center at Santa Fe Community College for five years. He came in second in a field of three in the 2018 election. His platform centers in part on what he calls "bread and butter" services that the city needs to consistently provide.
The current races are low-profile compared to the ballot that included the mayor's race last time and which came on the heels of the national mid-term elections and New Mexico's gubernatorial choice. Voter fatigue, apathy and disgust with politics is a hurdle, Scargall says, so having name recognition should help.
"It's going to be a really short window to win people over this time around, and so I think that does play into my hand," he says.
Anderson works in finance at the Los Alamos Fire Department and is interested in environmental issues such as the watershed and wildfire prevention. He says the candidates' roots in the city matter to voters in his district.
Getting the word out about the election moving back a few months has been challenging this season, he says.
"As soon as we got the materials from city clerk, everyone went on summer vacation," Anderson tells SFR. "But the candidates did what they had to do to overcome it."
Clerk Yolanda Vigil confirms all the candidates collected the required number of verified signatures of registered voters to be listed on the ballot. Garcia and all the candidates in District 4 have applied to access public campaign finance funds, and Vigil will make a determination soon about whether they qualify.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the final quote. It's from Anderson.