Publicly Funded

Four City Council candidates will receive up to $22,500 each in public funds to fuel their campaigns

City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic has green-lit four of the five Santa Fe City Council candidates who applied for public financing in the Nov. 2 municipal election. That means, by Bustos-Mihelcic’s reckoning, those candidates secured at least the required 150 $5 qualifying contributions from constituents in their districts.

Brian Gutierrez, one of four people running for District 1, qualified with $1,200 in $5 contributions. District 2 Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth is running unopposed for reelection, but she demonstrated her support with the largest total of qualifying contributions: $1,370. Lee Garcia, a District 3 contender against incumbent Roman “Tiger” Abeyta, collected $845. Finally, in District 4, Amanda Chavez picked up $1,025 from her constituents in qualifying contributions.

Chavez’s opponent for the open seat, Rebecca Romero, also applied for public financing on July 19.

According to the city clerk, Romero did succeed in getting her name on the ballot, but she fell short of the public financing bar due to insufficient qualifying contributions and will have to fund her campaign with private dollars instead.

Candidates for City Council who qualified will receive $15,000 from the public campaign finance fund and are eligible for an additional $7,500 based on the amount of private funds raised by others in their races, which the city matches up to $3,750.

Chavez also reported receiving seed money contributions, money that can be used to offset expenses incurred while seeking qualifying donations, from the Democratic Party of New Mexico and Crosstabs Consulting LLC, an Albuquerque-based advertising firm that also donated to the campaign of Ane Romero, a 2019 Albuquerque City Council candidate.

According to the Santa Fe city code, once candidates have the money from the public campaign finance fund in their accounts, they can use it “exclusively to pay expenses reasonably incurred in furtherance of the candidate’s current campaign.”

The financing cannot be used for personal living expenses or compensation to the candidate or family members. Nor can the funding be used to support another candidate, buy gifts or pay off debts and legal fees.

The money will be closely supervised by the city clerk as all candidates—regardless of their funding source, public and private—are required to submit campaign finance reports on Sept. 23, Oct. 8, Oct. 26, Nov. 1 and Nov. 16, after the election has closed.

City Council candidates subject to the rules of public financing cannot accept any further donations beyond the qualifying small contributions, which cannot exceed $100 per contributor, or $3,750 in total.

Meanwhile, none of the candidates for Santa Fe mayor chose to seek public financing. Mayor Alan Webber, Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Alexis Martinez Johnson are all planning to pay for their bids with private donations.

The mayoral candidates, as well as District 3 incumbent Abeyta and other District 1 candidates who are privately fundraising—Councilor Signe Lindell, Joe Hoback and Roger Carson—still have one more hurdle before their names land on the ballot. Their nominating petitions are due Aug. 24.

For more information about the municipal races and the candidates, see SFR’s City Election FAQ page.

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