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Monday, December 22, 2014

Berry triumphs, keeps mayor's job

Incumbent wins re-election bid by comfortable margin

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry thanks his supporters during his victory speech at the Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown on Tuesday night. Mayor Berry received 67.91 percent of the vote at press time.

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For the first time in at least 30 years, more than half of Albuquerque agreed on who should be the city’s mayor.

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Pete Dinelli talks with the media at his headquarters after he conceded the mayoral seat on Tuesday night. Richard Berry will serve as mayor of Albuquerque for four more years.

By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo
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“Never say never,” Paul Heh said when asked if he would run for Mayor again. Heh received 3 percent of the total votes cast on Tuesday’s general elections, which placed him at third behind fellow candidates Richard Berry and Pete Dinelli.

By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Republican incumbent Richard Berry was elected for a second term as the city’s executive in Tuesday’s general elections, marking the first time in three decades that a mayoral candidate received more than 50 percent of the total vote and avoided a runoff election.

As of press time, Berry received 67.91 percent of the vote. He led challengers Pete Dinelli, a Democrat who finished with 28.65 percent of the vote, and Paul Heh, a Republican who garnered 3.13 percent.

Berry took stage in the Sheraton Uptown last night to thank his supporters, who he deemed to be a “city united,” and to outline his plans for Albuquerque.

“Albuquerque’s best days are ahead of us,” he said, “And we’re going to make a lot of progress.”

Berry said he has a “robust agenda” in store for his next four years of leadership that prioritizes job creation and public safety. He also expressed intentions to work with UNM to improve the city’s economy.

Governor Susana Martinez made an appearance at Berry’s celebration. After thanking the mayor’s supporters, Martinez praised his leadership and his affiliation with the Republican Party.

“Mayor Berry has demonstrated what real leadership is all about,” she said. “At a time when Washington is a complete mess, is stuck in partisan gridlock, Mayor Berry has shown how a real leader can bring people together to solve problems.”

Supporters of Berry expressed confidence in the incumbent’s victory early that night.

Lauren Gee, deputy finance director for Berry’s campaign, said she did not think the election would result in a runoff.

“We feel good,” she said at the time. “We’re hoping for more than 60 percent, but don’t know if we’re going to get it.”

Gee said the election campaign has been a “good path” for the candidate and for his team.

“We worked really hard,” she said. “So day-in and day-out, there’s not an off hour. We’re going for it. We’re trying to figure out what the people of Albuquerque need.”

While Gee said Berry’s opponents were “very nice” and “intelligent” men, she said she thought Berry was better suited for office.

Three bottles of champagne stood on a picnic table, all unopened, at the headquarters of mayoral challenger Pete Dinelli. He had just finished delivering his concession speech.

“It’s not the end that we wanted, but it’s an end that I respect the people of Albuquerque to have made,” he said.

His loss was a result of low voter turnout, Dinelli said. He said Albuquerque residents did not care about election day enough.

“We have a severe apathy, I think, to go over the entire city,” Dinelli said. “It’s a combination of money, of apathy and of a very small voter turnout. The win was based on the projections of the early vote.”

If the abortion measure, which proposes to ban abortions in the city beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy and will be on the ballot for the November runoff election, were on the ballot Tuesday, more voters would have showed up, Dinelli said.

But he thanked his supporters all the same.

Yvonne Lopez, a volunteer with Dinelli’s campaign, said she supported Dinelli because she trusted him. Having grown up and gone to school in the city with the candidate, she said Dinelli only desires success for the city’s residents.

“Pete was such a good big brother,” she said. “We used to think that he was grumpy, and we didn’t like him, all the girls. He just wanted what was best for his mother, who was a waitress, which was success. I’m a retired police officer and I was a waitress, and I believe in Pete.”

Lopez said the city should strive harder for change.

“What I grew up with was not the same city of Albuquerque,” she said. “When the police department gets berated, that’s when we all get berated. That’s why I think we need to move on. Berry very, very screwed up.”

But Dinelli said he has no regrets.

“I started with high hopes and dreams. We ran a very clean race,” he said. “You learn a lot about yourself. I am very confident to say that I know myself as an individual. We fought for Democratic principles, and we stood up for what’s correct. That I am very proud of.”

Although he does not have concrete expectations for Berry in his second term, he said he congratulates the re-elected mayor.

“I want to extend to Mr. Berry my best wishes as he embarks on another four years,” he said. “Win, lose or draw, we’ve won this race…I just wish him good luck.”

Dinelli said he will spend the coming years more peacefully, in retirement.

The mood at Paul Heh’s campaign party, in contrast, was anxious but hopeful. The party was held in the home of one of Heh’s friends.

About fifteen of his friends and family members gathered around. They joked about the course of the campaign; they laughed as they reminisced about hammering signs into the rock-hard ground, only to have them washed away shortly after by monsoonal rains.

Heh spent the 24 hours leading up to election night giving interviews, driving voters to polls and putting campaign signs outside of polling places until 1 a.m. Tuesday.

“I’m not a politician, I’m one of you,” Heh said. “I don’t pretend to be anything special. I’m just a guy, just one of the folks who got tired of seeing this city being destroyed.”

With a campaign staff of five people, Heh ran without public financing, volunteer Matthew Landavazo said.

Landavazo, who works in vocal advertising, got involved with Heh after learning about the candidate through his uncle, a former APD officer.

“I just liked what he had to say,” Landavazo said. “Finally, somebody who isn’t afraid to tell the world like it is.”

Landavazo said Heh would have brought a “no-nonsense” style of leadership to the position had he been elected as mayor. This is an attribute Berry failed to demonstrate, he said.

“Mayor Berry is not one to follow his own statements,” he said. “You know, he ran last year that public safety was going to be number one, and it’s been his last priority. That just goes to show what kind of personal spin he’s put on things since he started office.”

Although Heh said he would “never say never,” he is doubtful he will run for office again. Once poll results became clear, Heh thanked his friends and family for their support.

“We can all hold our heads up and say we did the absolute best we could do,” he said.

Albuquerque’s Director of Constituent Services Doug Lutz said Berry has been “very professional” on the campaign trail.

“His match was pretty easy to follow,” he said. “For every decision we make, we have to do the right thing. If you do that, good things are going to happen.”

Victoria Garcia, a student at UNM, said she thinks Berry will continue to do “an amazing job” with the city.

“We’re really moving forward,” she said. “We’re really being inventive with what’s going on with projects. I think it’s amazing that he’s been doing that.”

Berry said it’s not too late for all Albuquerque residents to be on board with his administration.

“For those folks who didn’t support us tonight, my door is open tomorrow morning,” he said. “We want you to come and talk to us, we want you to tell us what your questions and concerns are, because we’re here for you.”