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Senior American studies and journalism major Samuel Kerwin is running for the District 6 city council seat.

Senior American studies and journalism major Samuel Kerwin is running for the District 6 city council seat.

Student skips student council, vies for city council

Last year, Samuel Kerwin discussed with his friends what they would do if they were city councilmen. Come October, he might get the chance to turn those words into action.

Kerwin, a senior American studies and journalism major, is one of three candidates on the ballot for the seat of City Councilor Rey Garduño, who is nearing the end of his second term. If elected, soon-to-be-23-year-old Kerwin would be the youngest city councilor in Albuquerque history.

Kerwin’s campaign for the vacant seat began in May, when he arrived home after a vacation and read that Garduño, who had initially planned to run for re-election, was retiring. Further, a potential successor had been endorsed.

Kerwin said he decided to make things interesting.

“I had been thinking about it before, but then, when they tried to just shoo-in a replacement for Garduño without an actual race, I said, ‘hey, let’s give the people a race,’ and I stepped in,” he said.

According to the Albuquerque City Charter, there is a lone requirement for those wishing to run for city councilor: “file with the City Clerk a petition containing signatures of five hundred (500) registered voters residing in the district which the person desires to represent.”

Garduño has represented District 6 — the UNM and Nob Hill areas — since 2007, and Kerwin was “born and raised” in the area, according to a press release for his campaign.

That lifelong exposure led Kerwin to be concerned about the more downtrodden parts of his community, and determined to give it a facelift, he said.

“When you go east on Central, past San Mateo, you’re around where things start getting real rough. I feel like those areas have just been ignored,” he said. “I really want to get in there ... see if we can revitalize it (by) getting the developers off the mesa and back into those neighborhoods.”

While many may be skeptical due to Kerwin’s age and relative inexperience, he refuses to be weighed down by it. On the contrary, he feels empowered by not having connections to political or professional viewpoints.

“I don’t have any political party clouding my decision-making, I don’t have any special interests that I’m tied to,” he said. “I’m an independent voice with new ideas, fresh ideas.”

Garduño, who, like Kerwin, is liberal-minded, also doesn’t see age as the determining quality in a candidate’s success.

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“Age is not an issue; commitment and the desire to represent constituents who would otherwise not be heard is more than important. It is crucial,” he said. “Mr. Sam Kerwin has a perspective that is unique to himself; his thoughts would be welcome. Bring on the debate.”

That debate will likely be diverse when it comes to Kerwin and his opponent, Pat Davis.

Kerwin’s platform is grounded in modernizing the experience of living in Albuquerque. According to his campaign’s press release, he is pledging to “revitalize local neighborhoods, support early childhood education, provide permanent shelters for the homeless and work with small businesses to stimulate the local economy.”

According to his campaign website,, Davis plans to work on, among other things, reforming the APD and bringing back “community policing,” as well as improving the community infrastructure.

Davis also works closely with a group vital to District 6: the University community.

“As a progressive, (Davis) has worked with the UNM community for over a decade ... with many students on a myriad of issues,” Garduño said.

Kerwin is striving to make some progress of his own in the city, and believes he’s the ideal candidate to scratch the surface of Albuquerque’s potential.

“I want to bring some new ideas to the city council,” he said. “I think as a student, as a millennial, as someone who’s only twenty-two years old, I’m in the perfect position to do that.”

In addition to Davis, Kerwin is also running against Hess “Hessito” Yntema, a Republican lawyer. The election is on October 6, and all registered District 6 voters are eligible to cast a ballot.

David Lynch is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


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