Money won seats on Albuquerque’s school board

By: - November 4, 2021 6:27 am

(Getty Images)

The Albuquerque Public Schools district will have four new members joining the school board from campaigns that raised and spent thousands of dollars in races where candidates traditionally spend much less.

Three of the four candidates elected last night could push the board in a direction led by GOP influence. 

Albuquerque school board members run in a nonpartisan election, but a look at their campaign finance reports indicates which supporters back their run. 

District 7 covers the far Northeast Heights schools that feed into La Cueva High. Courtney Jackson picked up 48% of the vote, and her nearest opponent Julie Brenning drew 41%. 

The race had substantial money compared to other school board races in the state. According to campaign finance reports, Jackson raised nearly $49,000. This far outpaced nearly every candidate running for a school board seat in New Mexico. 

Runner-up Brenning put up a fight with her donor base too. She raised almost $32,000. 

Combined, the two candidates spent more than $30,000 on their school board seats according to campaign finance reports released in October. Candidates will have to file another report in December, and any money left over could be used for future campaigns.

The third candidate in the District 7 race, Nicholas Bevins, managed 10% of the vote, while raising just over $700.

It’s clear that money won school board seats in Albuquerque. 

Danielle Marie Gonzales won the District 3 seat that feeds into Albuquerque High and Valley High Schools with 41% of the vote. She raised almost $42,000, nearly twice as much as her three opponents combined. 

The District 5 seat that covers schools on the west side was won by Crystal Tapia-Romero who raised just under $40,000 in campaign contributions. 

Josefina Elizabet Dominguez won District 6 — Manzano, Sandia and Eldorado — with support from the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico that helped her raise more than $14,000. 

She’s the only candidate supported by the union that won a seat on the Albuquerque school board. 

Jackson, Gonzales and Tapia-Romero’s campaigns are the top three earners in school board races across the state. 

A look at their top contributors show support from the Republican Party of New Mexico, NAIOP New Mexico Commercial Real Estate Development Association and individual donors active with the state GOP.

That money went right back to Republicans. Jackson paid more than $13,800 to McCleskey Media Strategies to help her win the District 7 seat. That group is run by GOP consultant Jay McKleskey, who’s candidate for mayor lost to Tim Keller. The wins on the school board could give some reprieve to New Mexico Republicans trying to find an identity in local politics. It doesn’t get any more local than local schools, and now the GOP can flex some leadership in the state’s largest school district.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.