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Santa Fe picks publishing entrepreneur as next mayor

Campaign supporters for mayoral candidates in Santa Fe, N.M., crowd the sidewalks outside polls at Gonzales Community School on Tuesday. Residents of New Mexico’s state capital city are picking a new mayor who will wield greater powers and earn an increased six-figure salary from a field of five candidates with no incumbent.

SANTA FE, N.M. – Santa Fe voters elected entrepreneur Alan Webber as the state capital city’s next mayor, with greater executive authority than the current mayor and a nearly quadrupled salary.

Five candidates were on the mayoral ballot in Santa Fe’s first ranked choice election in which voters could rand each candidate from first to last on the ballot, in order of preference.

City Clerk Yolanda Vigil announced Tuesday shortly before midnight that Webber gained a majority of votes after four elimination rounds.

When no candidate won a majority in the first round, the last-place finisher was eliminated and voters’ second choices were applied to the remaining candidates. The process was repeated until Webber won a 66 percent majority in the final round.

The ranked choice voting method has spread to 12 progressive-leaning cities across the country, from San Francisco to Portland, Maine. In June, Maine will become the first state first to let voters rank candidates in a statewide primary election.

Maria Perez, director of the election reform group FairVote New Mexico, mounted a legal challenge that forced implementation of ranked voting in Santa Fe this year— a decade after it was approved by voters.

She said the method “requires that the winning candidate reaches out beyond his or her base.”

Webber, the founder of Fast Company Magazine, garnered both union and business-community support with his background as a corporate innovator, raising more campaign dollars than any other candidate.

He prevailed over runner-up Kate Noble, a public school board member, and three current city council members: attorney Peter Ives, state transportation worker Ron Trujillo and former Espanola Mayor Joseph Maestas.

The next mayor will command greater authority over the city manager, city attorney and clerk’s office. The salary is increasing from $29,000 to $110,000 after voters approved a strong-mayor form of government.

Incumbent Mayor Javier Gonzales, a prominent Democrat and the city’s first openly gay mayor, chose not to run for a second term. Last month he dropped out of the campaign for lieutenant governor. He has denied allegations of decades-old sexual assault, characterizing the allegations as slanderous and a part of political attacks by his critics.