Candidates for Santa Fe municipal elections have been stockpiling their war chests as campaign season heats up for the Nov. 2 races. While some have opted to campaign with private dollars, others have asked for public financing to take their message to voters.
“I want to be able to show that the community, the residents of District 4...are what’s in charge of my campaign,” says new candidate Rebecca Romero of her decision to seek public financing. “They are the voices that I want to hear. Their opinions and their concerns are what matter to me.”
July 19 was the deadline for candidates to apply for public campaign financing. Five candidates submitted documentation to qualify, according to City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic. The City Clerk has until Aug. 6 to determine if candidates will receive up to $22,500 from the city to run their campaigns.
To get their names on the ballot in the ranked-choice election, candidates need signatures from one half of one percent of registered voters in their district. To qualify for public financing, City Council candidates had to submit individual $5 contributions from 150 voters in their district.
For mayoral candidates seeking public financing, 600 contributions are needed, though all of the individuals running for mayor so far have opted to privately finance their candidacies. In Mayor Alan Webber’s first bid to lead the city in 2018, he raised the most money Santa Fe has ever seen in municipal elections—$310,000. This time around, District 4 Councilor Joanne Vigil Coppler is challenging Webber rather than seeking re-election to that district and Alexis Martinez Johnson has also announced her intent to run. Reports on fundraising aren’t due until Aug. 24.
While the chance to seek public financing has passed, anyone interested in running for City Council or mayor has until Aug. 24 to send their nominating petitions to the county clerk.
Those seeking public campaign financing include: Brian Gutierrez, running for the District 1 seat; Carol Romero-Wirth, seeking re-election in District 2 and Lee Garcia for District 3. Both candidates who have formally announced their candidacy for District 4, Amanda Chavez and Romero, also submitted documentation to seek public financing for their campaigns.
Another new candidate, Roger Carson, Las Campanas real estate agent, will not seek public financing.
“It just doesn’t seem to give you a competitive edge like it was intended to. It was intended to keep everything fair, but the way elections have evolved,” Carson says, makes races a “big money game.”
Carson will run against incumbent Councilor Sig Lindell, Joe Hoback, credit union president, and Gutierrez of Mr. G Pro Tow.
Carson says, from his perspective as a real estate agent, the issue of housing—an imbalance between wages and house prices—is a central focus of his candidacy. He hopes to make gains on the issue by listening and collaborating with realtors, nonprofits and the city.
“We have incredibly smart people in Santa Fe in different sectors,” Carson tells SFR. “There’s some disconnect preventing us from solving that problem.”
Romero says she also sees a disconnect in city government.
“I’ve not seen, in the last few years, that the city wants to reach out to different entities, including the state of New Mexico,” Romero says of her concerns for Santa Fe. “It seems divided.”
Romero, who has worked with the finance team for the Department of Health for six years, says her experience with budgets will inform her work as councilor to better support public employees during financial crises—an issue she witnessed during the pandemic and hopes to prevent from happening again.
Another issue concerning Romero is meeting the demand for water in District 4, especially given the number of new developments going up on the Southside—where Romero was born and raised.
“Living in District 4, it’s always my home, it’s something that I love being around,” Romero tells SFR. She says the decline in parks and facilities for young people have encouraged her to run for City Council.
“I played softball and baseball when I was younger and I’ve talked to the president of the Santa Fe Little League,” Romero says. “And they couldn’t even hold their baseball tournaments this year at the main field where I played baseball because the city couldn’t maintain it because they were understaffed.”
Garcia, whose family has long run Garcia Tires on Airport Road, could not be reached for comment.
Regardless of the source of funding—public or private—for their campaigns, both recent additions to the City Council elections hope their leadership will bring change to local governance.
“It’s not about finding consensus,” Carson says of his leadership skills. “It’s about building consensus.”
To learn more about the candidates, ranked choice voting or other municipal election items, see SFR’s Santa Fe City Election FAQs.