In less than two months, Albuquerque will have to decide whether to keep its current leader or to select a new one. Mayoral elections for the city are set for Oct. 8.
To get yourself acquainted with the 11th-floor hopefuls, here are the basics about current Mayor Richard Berry and candidates Pete Dinelli and Paul Heh.
Incumbent runs for re-election
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry will test his political luck once again after winning the seat in 2009. Berry snagged the seat from then-Mayor Martin Chavez by winning 44 percent of the city’s popular vote. He is the ninth mayor of the city.
Born in Iowa, Berry, 50, spent his early years in Nebraska. When he was 19, he moved to Albuquerque to study finance and administration at UNM’s Anderson School of Management. There, he was a decathlete and he met Maria Medina, his future wife.
In 2006, Berry won the 20th district of the New Mexico House of Representatives unopposed in the general election. This happened again when he ran for reelection in 2008.
During his mayoral term, Berry has cut government spending by about $140 million and has reduced the city government’s size by about 200 positions. This happened through attrition, which means that the mayor decided not to hire replacements for retiring or resigning employees in certain positions.
Berry, a Republican, said he has also decreased crime in Albuquerque.
“We’ve driven the FBI crime rate to 20 year lows during my first term, public safety is important to people,” he said during his official announcement of his re-election candidacy. “I think the fact that we have brought fiscal accountability and transparency to city hall is important. It means a lot to me as a mayor.”
Although Berry has been somewhat silent during this campaign period, he said in his announcement that he will focus on job creation if reelected. Still, his two opponents have recently been challenging him for a public debate.
In a poll by the Albuquerque Business First, Berry is in second place at 34 percent, trailing Paul Heh at 43 percent.
Lone Democrat challenges Berry
The only Democrat on the ballot, Pete Dinelli announced his candidacy in January. Dinelli has served as the city’s chief public safety officer and as deputy city attorney.
An Albuquerque native, Dinelli aims to focus on job creation in the state. He said Albuquerque currently has an unemployment rate of 7 percent, and that the city has had a “zero-percent” job growth rate during Berry’s term.
At a rally last month, Dinelli said he plans to create more jobs through major projects Downtown. These include an event center and more residential spaces in the area, which could make that area of town more attractive to prospective businesses.
Dinelli also said he plans to address the issue of violence in the Albuquerque Police Department and said he will “re-organize the department and bring it back to what it was before.” He said he blames Berry for APD’s administrative problems.
To rival “ABQ: The Plan,” which is Berry’s economic development plan for Albuquerque, Dinelli released “Energize ABQ” in late July. Dinelli said his plan aims to create 15,000 to 20,000 new jobs in the future without imposing new taxes.
In the rally, Dinelli urged Berry to “quit hiding” and answer his call for a debate.
In a poll by the Albuquerque Business First, Dinelli is in last place at 22 percent.
Former APD chief files mayoral bid
Paul Heh, 66, served as an officer with APD for 24 years before retiring with the rank of senior sergeant in 2011. Heh officially announced his candidacy in February.
Heh, a Republican, has served as an officer at the Hobbs Police Department for six years before arriving at APD. Besides working with cops, he was also a blue-collar factory worker at Westinghouse Electric for 16 years.
According to his website, Heh will capitalize on Albuquerque’s low cost of living to attract out-of-state businesses to the city. He said he will provide “some tax and labor cost relief, but not irresponsible tax deals that hurt the city overall.”
The former officer also aims to address APD’s problems by performing an audit of the department if he wins. Heh, who criticizes Berry for slashing $6 million from the Albuquerque Fire Department, said he aims to restore AFD’s funding fully.
Heh said poor operations on public safety will hurt the city economy. And like Dinelli, Heh has also urged Berry for a public debate.
Heh has been married with his wife Debbi for 17 years. They have three children named Arianna, Chris and Tarra.
In a poll by the Albuquerque Business First, Heh leads at 43 percent.
These three candidates will have until Tuesday to decide whether to stay or to withdraw their mayoral bid.