Election 2023: Former cop, former state representative face off in District 8 City Council race

Oct. 25—The District 8 Albuquerque City Council race could be influential in determining the political makeup of the legislative body.

With no incumbent fighting to keep the seat, Democrat and former New Mexico state representative Idalia Lechuga-Tena faces Republican and former police officer Daniel Champine in the race to represent part of the Northeast Heights.

Currently, the City Council is almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, 5-4. But two of the four seats held by Republicans — District 4 and District 8 — are up for grabs and have candidates from both ideologies pursuing the seats.

District 8, which encompasses the far Northeast Heights and foothills, has been a Republican stronghold for decades. Trudy Jones has held the seat since 2007. She currently has the second-longest tenure on the council, two years fewer than Isaac Benton in District 2.

Lechuga-Tena has outspent Champine 2-1. For District 8, publicly financed candidates such as Lechuga-Tena and Champine have a maximum spending limit of $44,577. According to annual campaign finance reports, Lechuga-Tena is nearing that limit, with $41,680 in expenditures; Champine has spent less than half of that, $18,835.

Champine spent the vast majority of his funding on several campaign mailers, which highlighted his public safety record as a retired police officer and an endorsement from the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

Lechuga-Tena's largest expenditures went to Missouri media firm TJP strategies. Her campaign materials cited her experience as a state legislator representing District 21 and sitting on Albuquerque community policing councils.

In a questionnaire from the Journal, both Champine and Lechuga-Tena identified crime as one of, if not the, most pressing issues in Albuquerque. While both advocated for fully staffing and funding law enforcement, they sometimes diverged on how to address it.

Lechuga-Tena wrote she would champion a diversion program pulled from Miami-Dade County. According to the Miami State Attorney's Office, nonviolent offenders can seek an alternative to prosecution if they comply with certain conditions, which can include classes and community service, in an effort to reduce recidivism.

Champine advocated for repealing Albuquerque's "sanctuary city" status and pushing the state Legislature to end "catch and release" policies.

In 2000, the City Council passed a resolution declaring Albuquerque an "immigrant-friendly" city. Councilors have voted more recently to reaffirm that commitment. In February, state legislators rejected a bill that would have automatically required people accused of certain crimes to be held in pretrial detention. The bill received concerns about constitutionality.