Phill Casaus: They're in the homestretch, and here's what we've learned

·4 min read

Oct. 24—Four months ago, I handicapped the mayor's race this way: Alan Webber had to figure out how to get out of his own way; JoAnne Vigil Coppler needed a campaign slogan catchier than "I'm Not Him"; and Alexis Martinez Johnson had to determine whether a bronze medal was worth the effort.

OK, it was a little more complicated than that.

But it's only 10 days before the election, and we find precious little has changed since temps were in the 90s.

Here's what we know as the Three Amigos — heh, heh — round the turn and head for Nov. 2.:

Alan Webber: The Vigil Coppler challenge is serious enough that Mayor Friendly had to get mean when the leaves began to turn. Though the District 4 city councilor had precious little to trumpet in her 3 1/2 years on the governing body, the Webber campaign took advantage of any politician's weak spot during the COVID-19 era: a vote against masks. It was mostly just a reflexive vote against Webber, but, hey, if the shoe fits ...

The Webberites have been pounding her with it ever since, to the point she basically introduced herself at a recent forum by proclaiming she's not against masks.

For Webber, masks are an effective strategy; one that keeps the once-relentless Vigil Coppler on the defensive. But rather than press his advantage, Webber has spent part of his time complaining about "Jay Baker," the Facebook group that heckles him and his campaign both online and, through some T-shirts, in person. It's just another example of how political campaigns operate in an echo chamber and how there's no such thing as professional politicians.

Nope, politics is personal. Even if you're Mayor Friendly. Especially if you're Mayor Friendly.

Here's the thing to watch on election night: the results from District 1. That should be Webber country, full of people who actually vote. He needs to clean up. Oddly, however, one of his biggest allies, City Councilor Signe Lindell, has sidestepped questions on the mayor or endorsing the mayor, perhaps because she's got opposition that would love to jump on a nugget like that. Makes you wonder if Webber's support is squishy in a place where it has to be rock-solid.

He'd better hope not.

JoAnne Vigil Coppler: Well, you can't say she's inconsistent. She entered the race as the anti-Webber and has done little to move off that spot. About the only thing different between June and October is she's got to explain the mask vote before she gets to tell people she's against pretty much all the mayor has done. She has done little to articulate what she would do.

What's most interesting about Vigil Coppler is her mystifying notions about how wonderfully city government worked in the past. Really? The contention has a lot of people scurrying to their cedar chests and clip files trying to find those days, mostly without success. Whether it's Santa Fe or San Francisco, city governments face loads of problems, and generally it's 51-49 on whether they're ever solved.

Put another way: I'm betting in four years, Santa Fe will still be grappling with housing and homeless issues, regardless of the administration.

More to the point: In Santa Fe's new version of governance, one with a strong mayor, the next executive isn't the first among equals or a member of the club. The current system means a mayor sports a big, fat bull's-eye every day. He or she is a juicy target.

Just ask Alan Webber.

It's a new paradigm. If Vigil Coppler wins next month, I can't believe she wouldn't deal with one, two or more city councilors who think they can run the operation much better than she. They'll be waiting in the weeds for the missteps, controversies and other headaches that come with the job.

In other words, there's someone out there just itching to say, "Hi, I'm not JoAnne Vigil Coppler."

Alexis Martinez Johnson: Truthfully, she's been much better than advertised and clearly learned a few things during her run for the 3rd Congressional District in 2020. The realities of running a city weren't among them, but Martinez Johnson has proven she can articulate a position. Still, the question for her is this: Having lost in two high-profile races in one year, will she have the patience or money to try for elected office from another angle? She'd be a tough out in a City Council or County Commission election.

From that admittedly lower-level launchpad, she'd be able to create a record of sorts, and more clearly learn what works and what doesn't. There's little question she has created a profile and name recognition. We'll see.

OK, it's 10 days and counting. That's your final scouting report for the season. See you at the polls.

Phill Casaus is editor of The New Mexican.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting