2021 ABQ Mayoral Race

Gonzales Derails Mayoral Debate Amid Criminal Fraud Investigation

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales reading a question for Mayor Tim Keller about corruption and cover-ups of domestic violence and an extra-marital affair during Tuesday’s KOB4 mayoral debate.//screenshot

The beginning of Manny Gonzales’ mayoral campaign was marked by a sex toy dangling from a drone. It very well may have ended last night when he accused the incumbent on live television of using the power of his office to cover up domestic violence and an extra-marital affair.

Gonzales provided no evidence of his allegations, but following four lackluster debate performances and a summer spent defending himself against allegations of election fraud, going low may have been the only play he had left. 

“Mayor Keller, where is your accountability?” Gonzales asked the incumbent in the KOB4 studio Tuesday. 

“There are serious misconduct allegations at city hall under your watch. Allegations of your own domestic violence incident being covered up by high-ranking city officials. Another allegation of a high-ranking city official who was driving drunk and was involved driving a city vehicle and involved in a crash. And the third is, also, you having allegations of having an affair with a city subordinate. How can you pub — how can the public trust you to fight crime in Albuquerque when you can’t even fight crime in city hall.” 

— Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales

Keller wasn’t having it.

“What a disgusting pre-prepared question you just read,” Keller said. He denied Gonzales’ claims, stating there wasn’t a “shred of evidence” to any of it, and accused the sheriff of spreading “myths and mistruths” that he read on social media.  

“That’s defamation, and you should know that, sheriff. Look, I mean you can have a debate, you can talk about policies, but unless you have any shred of evidence of any kind, then that is actually going to be on you. Talk about accountability. Fraud in your own campaign, literally. And now just blatantly defaming people for a political stunt so that you can raise money off of it, which is what you just asked voters to do. It’s pathetic.”

— Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller

For the record, The Conservative New Mexican does not know if any of what Gonzales is claiming is true. Anyone who has delved into the deep, dark, conspiratorial corners of Twitter’s politisphere has heard these rumors and more. But claims made without evidence should be dismissed without evidence, and few have given the rumors any attention, nor should they.

Two weeks out from Election Day, it’s unlikely to help Gonzales. Here’s why.

Without proof, those who were already voting for Keller won’t change their minds, but plenty of people who were considering backing Gonzales may now be quietly heading for the exits.

The reason isn’t exactly “decorum.” There are no rules in politics. Campaigns have been attacking their opponents’ character and leveraging personal sexual proclivities for centuries (though it is rare to see the candidate himself spreading the dirt; that’s usually left to the quiet influence of the hired help, hence the circulation of outlandish rumors on social media). The reason it may not help Gonzales is that it signals to voters that he can’t win on the issues.

Does it matter if it’s true? Absolutely. If any elected leader uses the power of his office to cover up his own personal dramas, that is unacceptable. 

In the coming days, Gonzales will do irreparable harm to his campaign and his personal reputation if he doesn’t produce evidence backing up his claims, but even if he does, even if the evidence is more than a he-said she-said teenage drama, the fact that Gonzales had to resort to personal attacks of this kind prove he couldn’t win the mayoral race on the merit of his ideas, the strength of his platform, or the work of his campaign.

In that way, it doesn’t matter whether or not the allegations are true, and if Gonzales wins, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.

Criminal Investigation

Last month, the Albuquerque Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices reprimanded and fined the Gonzales campaign for election rule violations following allegations that his staff forged voter signatures to get him on the ballot. The campaign acknowledged that some of the signatures were indeed forged but contended there were not enough forgeries to make a difference. Gonzales would have had enough signatures to qualify for the race even if the forged signatures were thrown out.

The Gonzales campaign may soon find itself under criminal investigation over the matter.

From The Albuquerque Journal:

“District Attorney Raúl Torrez plans to ask New Mexico State Police to investigate allegations of election-related fraud against Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ mayoral campaign, he wrote in a letter last week to Albuquerque’s city attorney.

Torrez will refer the allegations to State Police after the city’s Nov. 2 election ‘to prevent the timing of an investigation or prosecution from having an effect on an election,’ Torrez wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr.

‘I will scrupulously adhere to this practice and will not take official action or make any public comment on this matter until the results of the upcoming election have been certified,’ Torrez wrote.

In two weeks, Gonzales will face off against Mayor Tim Keller and radio talk show host Eddy Aragon in the mayoral election.

‘My review of this matter will begin immediately, but as you know, prosecutorial decisions must await the completion of a criminal investigation,’ Torrez wrote. ‘Further, my prosecutorial review must be independent and nonpartisan.’

He planned to refer the allegations to State Police, ‘which is a conflict-free law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over this matter.’

— The Albuquerque Journal, October 19, 2021

Gonzales campaign manager Shannan Calland responded to the referral for investigation, without irony, calling it “a shameless political stunt” pulled “two weeks before an election” that “demonstrates that Keller knows his campaign is in deep trouble.”

You couldn’t make this up if you tried.

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