The Latest: Democrats take Albuquerque's mayor seat from GOP

In this Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, photo New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller, left, and Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis speak after participating in a Albuquerque mayoral forum at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Voters will decide Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 between Keller and Lewis in a race that largely has focused on rising crime in Albuquerque and the city's struggling economy. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

Russell Contreras

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Voters in New Mexico's largest city are preparing to choose its next mayor after the Republican incumbent opted not to seek re-election.

Voters will decide Tuesday between Democrat Tim Keller and Republican Dan Lewis in a race that largely has focused on rising crime in Albuquerque and the city's struggling economy.

The election comes a week after Democrats won governorships and legislative seats in Virginia and New Jersey and took mayor seats in places like Helena, Montana.

Keller, New Mexico's state auditor, and Lewis, an Albuquerque city councilor, are facing off in a runoff after both defeated six other candidates last month. Both men say they want to hire 400 police officers and have the Albuquerque Police Department return to neighborhood policing amid a rising violent crime rate.

Keller and Lewis say the next mayor will need to work to bring more jobs to a city that has an unemployment rate hovering around 6 percent.

Though the Albuquerque mayoral race is officially nonpartisan, both state parties have gotten involved to attack the candidate of the other party.

For example, the Republican Party of New Mexico released two online ads criticizing Keller's decision to accept $30,000 in "in-kind" donations, though he has opted for public financing. "Keller, a progressive who is backed by radical national interest groups, was prohibited from accepting those contributions once he accepted public financing for his campaign," the party said in a statement.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico also has been vocal in its support for Keller. Some party activists have worked to tie Lewis to President Donald Trump, who lost to Hillary Clinton in Bernalillo County by 18 percentage points.

Lewis, an ordained Baptist minister, has brushed aside the connection and said he has never run for a partisan seat. He does, however, support the Trump administration's call for Albuquerque not to become a sanctuary city to offer protection to immigrants living in the country illegally. The Trump administration has said it would withhold federal money to fight crime unless Albuquerque rejected the idea of becoming a sanctuary city.

"I'm against sanctuary cities," Lewis said. "I will obey the law."

Keller, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Harvard University, said he would resist the Trump administration's efforts to make Albuquerque reject becoming a sanctuary city. "I want Albuquerque to be a welcoming place," he said.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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