Albuquerque City Council

How Conservative (or Democrat) Is Newly Elected ‘Conservative Democrat’ City Councilor Louie Sanchez? Time Will Tell.

With the election of two new Republicans to the Albuquerque City Council (one replacing a retiring Republican), the power differential shifts from a 6–3 to 5–4 Democrat majority.

But with one newly elected Democrat — Louie Sanchez — donning the “Conservative” brand, some have speculated about the actual political makeup of the new Council.

The Pinon Post wrote that the election of a Conservative Democrat establishes a “5–4 conservative majority,” while Paul Gessing, president of The Rio Grande Foundation, a free-market think tank, anticipated a “sensible majority” with a new Council.

“With the electoral win of conservatives (Dan) Lewis over leftist Cynthia Borrego in District 5 and Louie Sanchez’s win over leftist Lan Sena, the council will now be a 5–4 conservative majority. Although Sanchez is a registered Democrat, he is a conservative.” — Pinon Post, December 7, 2021 

The problem is that “Conservative Democrat” is as descriptive as “Progressive Republican” or “Moderate Libertarian.” It’s not quite as oxymoronic as an “Authoritarian Anarchist” or a “Capitalistic Socialist,” but it’s confusingly generic, and without a voting record (Sanchez has never held public office), the abstract title means nothing to the people who are trying to figure out whether the City Council will be an ally or a roadblock to Democrat Mayor Tim Keller’s failed progressive policies.

“Conservative Democrat” is a subjective sub-category in politics that most voters couldn’t describe if asked. Does it mean socially or fiscally Conservative, or both — and if so, what about Sanchez’s politics keeps him tethered to the Democrat Party?

He has offered few clues about his ideology. His campaign website is a dead link. His personal website links to an employment profile at Allstate Insurance. His only social media page, Facebook, hadn’t been updated in a year prior to a November 16, 2021 post of a turkey dinner spread (using a stock photo) with a caption that reads: “Am I the only one who gets hungry thinking about Thanksgiving dinner?”

Conservatives oppose doing for others what they can do for themselves. They believe in the freedom to spend the money they earn how they see fit. They oppose identity politics, race-baiting education policies, and wasteful spending. They support freedom of speech and medical autonomy.

Democrats believe in systemic oppression and reparations, not only to right the racial wrongs of a distant past but to coddle the current economic failures of the underworked on the backs of the overworked. They believe in redistribution of wealth and the responsibility of the state to take from the successful to fund welfare for the lazy. They support identity politics, CRT, and the government spending taxpayer money on programs that reach far beyond the purview of the Constitution. They believe words are violence and medical decisions should be dictated by politicians.

None of this is a criticism of Sanchez’s political views. We simply don’t know his positions. Sanchez campaigned on crime and homelessness, just like every other candidate, Republican and Democrat, who ran for public office this fall. 

The problem is that his views aren’t widely known or even easily searchable, which makes it difficult for constituents to predict how he’ll vote when issues of crime and homelessness come before the Council.

His first test will be revelatory. 

As a potential swing vote, the president of the Albuquerque City Council is in Sanchez’s hands. Will he vote for a Democrat, or side with Conservatives to elect the obvious choice of Republican Dan Lewis as Council president?

It matters, but the power structure of the Council matters less than the ordinances they bring before the Council. Of particular interest is whether a new majority will continue to spend money on services meant to combat homelessness but which have proven only to increase the prevalence of homeless within the city. Will they start to prioritize actual policing, or continue handing out bottles of water and snacks to the homeless — what Mayor Keller calls “community policing”? Will they push for more LGBTQ story hours at local libraries and rainbow-painted crosswalks Downtown, or will they crack down on the petty crime, loitering, trespassing, and vandalism that has made Downtown Albuquerque a war zone? 

Who Sanchez votes for to be the next Council president is not necessarily indicative of how he will vote on other issues, but it will signal to constituents whether this particular “Conservative Democrat” is more “Conservative” or “Democrat.” Conservatives and Democrats alike are eager to know.

Sanchez told KOAT in early December, “This is what the constituents of Albuquerque hired me to do. They hired me to come in here to make change.”

As a so-called Conservative, Sanchez holds the power to be a swing vote that can bring about real “change.”

What he means by that we’ll soon find out.

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