2021 ABQ Mayoral Race

Voter Accusing Gonzales of Campaign Fraud Is A 7-Time MLG Donor

ABQ Mayoral Candidate Manny Gonzales at Oak Tree Cafe, June 2021

A complaint being used to justify denying over a half a million dollars in public financing to Mayor Tim Keller’s opponent was made by a seven-time financial donor to Democratic Gov. Michell Lujan Grisham, according to public records.

Keller’s self-appointed city clerk on Friday denied $661,000 in public financing to Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales for this November’s mayoral election because of campaign fraud allegations filed by Keller’s campaign.

The complaint claims Gonzales told a voter that his campaign would pay the $5 contribution to put Gonzales on the November ballot.

Candidates are required to receive $5 contributions and valid signatures from 1% of registered voters, or 3,779 people. According to CABQ data, both candidates exceeded the threshold to qualify for the November ballot.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, “Gonzales allegedly told the voter that his campaign would cover the $5 contribution, which is a violation of Albuquerque’s election law.

“The complaint was accompanied by a written statement from Dean Zantow, a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, who alleges the fraud occurred when Gonzales attended a May 27 board meeting as an invited guest.” — Albuquerque Journal, June 7, 2021

According to public campaign contribution records, Zantow has made seven separate campaign donations to Lujan Grisham since March 2018.

A second complaint filed by Keller’s campaign accuses the sheriff’s campaign of forging signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot. According to the Journal, Keller’s campaign filed “about 40 affidavits collected by a private investigator” from people who said they either “hadn’t made contributions or said they kicked in the money but hadn’t signed.” 

Gonzales has appealed the public financing denial. The issue will be ruled on by a city hearing officer, which, if appealed again, would then go to the state District Court.

The Journal’s editorial board noted that “In 2017, the city’s Board of Ethics & Campaign Practices found that Keller’s campaign violated the election code with its handling of in-kind donations,” though the violation was determined not to be intentional and no reprimand or fine was issued.

According to CABQ data, Gonzales submitted 4,182 signatures to Keller’s 4,112 and had 591 rejected by the city clerk compared to Keller’s 338. Both met the threshold to qualify for the November ballot.

Gonzales’ campaign has denied the allegations, stating

“At the end of the day, these appear to be nothing more than innocent administrative mistakes made by volunteers in a handful of the over 8,000 signatures and contributions we turned in, such as signing the wrong line of the form or otherwise incorrectly completing the contribution book. In fact, the campaign turned in nearly 1,000 additional contributions above the required amount, so there is no question the campaign has qualified

“Campaigns routinely turn in additional signatures and contributions because administrative mistakes happen across the board, such as the clerk improperly rejecting State Senator Sander Rue’s $5 contribution claiming he is deceased. He is very much alive, but we are not accusing the clerk of felony fraud.”

 — KRQE, June 29, 2021

It should be noted that public records show Zantow also contributed to Republican State Senator Rue in 2016. According to the Journal, Zantow said “he made a $5 contribution to the Keller campaign,” as well.

According to a KOB4 report, a Political Action Committee called “Save Our City” is accusing Keller’s campaign of its own irregularities.

“We have been looking into signatures and $5 contributions for the Keller campaign” Save Our City Measure Finance Committee Co-Chair Karen Montoya told KOB4. 

“We had an elections expert already identify over 40 very concerning contribution forms and also petition signatures.”

—Save Our City spokesman James Hallinan

According to city election records, Save Our City has raised $52,500 in the last month (ending July 05, 2021) and $58,774 cash on hand, compared to $9,235 raised in the last month and $21,999 cash on hand collected by Build Back ‘Burque, which is backing Keller’s re-election.

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