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Oct. 21—One of the biggest mysteries in local politics these days is the identity of someone who goes by "Jay Baker" on Facebook — a firebrand who uses the social media platform to excoriate Mayor Alan Webber and his administration on a daily basis.
The only-in-Santa Fe mystery may be getting harder to solve as more people, primarily critics of the mayor, have started wearing T-shirts proclaiming, "I am Jay Baker."
Eli Bransford, a Santa Fe native who creates YouTube videos that highlight what he characterizes as attacks on the city's history and culture from "radicals and activists," said he's not Baker. But he is helping sell and distribute the shirts, which have become something of a cottage industry as the mayoral race nears its final days.
"I don't know who came up with the idea" of making the T-shirts, Bransford said. "I know it's going to be one of two people, but unfortunately, I can't disclose their names."
Bransford said "there's a pretty good appetite" for the T-shirts.
"There's probably well over 100 shirts in circulation," he said. "I may be a little high, a little low, but my mailbox [on Facebook] lit up for days. 'Hey, I want a shirt. I want a shirt.' You know what I had to do? I had to pay my daughter to make shirt runs. I basically said, 'OK, sweetie, here's a bunch of shirts. I need you to hit all these addresses.' "
For political junkies and active Facebook users, Baker is a phenomenon. For the average Santa Fean? Probably not so much. But Baker and the posts are widely discussed on social media and have become part of the city's political landscape. Donning "I am Jay Baker" T-shirts, some two dozen Baker supporters recently attended a mayoral forum and annoyed Webber's campaign team.
Baker and the T-shirt came up during the most recent mayoral debate when Webber noted some of JoAnne Vigil Coppler's supporters have been wearing them "throughout the campaign."
"That mask represents a group that inspired QAnon," Webber said, referring to a stylized depiction of Guy Fawkes, an English conspirator who has been portrayed as a freedom-fighting hero, on front of the T-shirt.
"And Jay Baker ... attacks me, lies about me, my team, my team's family, on a daily basis," he said, later asking Vigil Coppler if she would call on her supporters to disavow that and other types of rhetoric.
"I think you are projecting the woes of your administration through this fellow or woman Jay Baker onto me," Vigil Coppler responded. "I will have to tell you, I'm not Jay Baker. I don't know who Jay Baker is in this room if there is any Jay Baker. I don't know if Jay Baker is three or four or five people. You know, you must have a lot of time on your hands to read Facebook and believe everything you see."
In an interview with The New Mexican via Facebook, Baker was enigmatic, even declining to say whether the person or persons writing the posts are male or female.
"It will all make sense some day," Baker wrote. "Really."
Baker denied any association with the shirts but admitted to approving them for an unidentified person — as long as any profits went to charity.
"He agreed and profits are supposed to go to the food depot," Baker wrote, referring to the Santa Fe-based food bank.
Baker also wrote there's an appetite for the shirts because "people are frustrated with the condition of the City and the lack of responsiveness from elected officials on the local, state and federal levels."
"The shirts are their way of saying that enough is enough," Baker wrote.
Baker's Facebook profile has attracted a loyal following that includes a number of current and former city employees.
Among them is Carmen Noble, a former city worker who said she only recently learned about Baker through a co-worker. That same day, she said, she received a text message from her mother, who wrote she was excited because an "I am Jay Baker" T-shirt was being delivered to her home.
"I called my mom. I'm like, 'Who's Jay Baker?' She's all, 'Nobody knows. It's amazing,' " Noble said, adding she asked her mother to buy her a T-shirt, which go for $20 apiece.
"And then I bought one for my co-worker to surprise her because she had just been talking about him," she said.
Noble said she has since started following Baker on Facebook. She said she was hooked from the start.
"Oh my gosh, I go down a wormhole, so now I stay up until midnight the first day I follow him just to read all the mitotes because they're good," she said. "And I'm not going to lie, it's juicy."
The mayor himself is among Baker's Facebook friends. So is Webber's campaign field director, Danny Maki, whose wife, city Finance Director Mary McCoy, and father, Butch Maki, have been targets of Baker's posts.
Danny Maki called Baker a cyberbully and said he's only Facebook friends with Baker to know what he's writing "every time he tags me."
"I think he's making hateful and hurtful statements," he said. "I mean, a good friend of mine who's a recovering addict [and a member of Webber's campaign team], and they're targeting him. That can get someone to relapse. That's hurtful and hateful stuff. This is truly internet bullying."
Among Baker's other Facebook friends: City Councilor and mayoral candidate JoAnne Vigil Coppler; City Councilor Michael Garcia; former District Attorney Marco Serna; and Melissa Mascareñas, past president of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council.
"Thank you Jay Baker!" Mascareñas recently commented in a post linked to a story about a public records request she filed with the city that the state Attorney General's Office implored the city to fulfill.
"I appreciate you letting the community know just how hard it is to get the City and the DAs office to follow the law," she wrote.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.