- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 3, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller and Albuquerque City Council Dan Lewis won the top two spots in Albuquerque’s mayoral race and will now face off in a November runoff, according to unofficial results Tuesday.

The open election listed all candidates’ names but not their party affiliations. The top two vote getters, regardless of political party, move onto the general election.

With more than half of the city’s voting centers reported, Keller, a Democrat, garnered around 39 percent of the vote Tuesday on a platform to revamp the city’s police department and tackle Albuquerque’s rising crime rate.

His campaign had galvanized the liberal wing of New Mexico’s Democratic Party for promising to address gender-pay disparity in city government and resist calls by President Donald Trump to work with the federal government on immigration enforcement.

“We had a small army helping us,” Keller told supporters. “We had a block-by-block campaign, and it showed today.”

Lewis, a Republican, came in second with about 23 of the vote and also promised to reduce the city’s crime rate while pressing district judges to be harsher on repeat offenders. He was able to hold off former New Mexico Democratic Chair Brian Colon, who came in third, and Bernalillo County Commissioner and fellow Republican Wayne Johnson, who came in fourth.

“I’m the only one who has a detailed plan to fight crime in the city,” Lewis said. He called Keller’s proposal focusing partly on neighborhood policing “hug-a-thug” and vowed to explain to voters their differences

The election came after FBI statistics released last week show violent crime in Albuquerque last year jumped around 16 percent. In 2016, the city had a violent crime rate of 1,112 incidents per 100,000 residents.

While the rate isn’t among the highest in the nation when it comes to cities of similar size and demographics, it is well above average for cities with a population of 250,000 of more. Cities in that category have an average violent crime rate of 711.

Albuquerque also has a property crime rate per 100,000 residents of 6,860 - more than twice the average for cities with a population of 250,000 of more.

According to the city clerk’s office, nearly 41,000 people had cast ballots as of Friday, when early voting wrapped up. As of Monday, more than 3,000 voters had already submitted absentee ballots.

The race was dominated by rising crime and pressures to revamp the Albuquerque Police Department.

This marks the first mayoral election in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot.

Republican Richard Berry has been Albuquerque’s mayor since 2009 and isn’t seeking a third term.

Unofficial returns also show that Albuquerque voters have narrowly rejected a proposal that would have required employers to provide paid sick leave to workers.

The measure was defeated Tuesday by around 700 votes out of about 91,000.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras

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