SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber is confronting local fraternal organizations with accusations of campaign finance violations for unreported spending on political ads in coordination with a rival candidate, as he seeks a second term in office in the November election.
The complaint responds to yard signs, newspaper ads and social media spots that criticize the mayor's handling of public tensions over historical monuments and tributes to the region's Spanish colonial past and armed conflicts of the 19th century.
Filed on Thursday with a city ethics panel, the complaint from Webber's campaign alleges campaign finance violations by an advocacy group for Spanish-colonial heritage and pride — the Union Protectiva de Santa Fe — and local chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The groups have 10 days to file a formal response.
Sascha Guinn Anderson, communications director for the Webber campaign, says the fraternal orders have engaged in electioneering and have an obligation to disclose political contributors. The ethics complaint includes a supportive email to mayor candidate JoAnne Vigil Coppler from the president of the Union Protectiva.
“It's imperative that everything in the election remain above board,” Anderson said Friday. “There's been an inordinate amount of negativity and attacks on the mayor by these groups."
Union Protectiva spokesman James Hallinan accused the mayor of “clearly retaliating against Hispanic, Catholic, veteran and military citizens and groups with this baseless and desperate complaint.”
He described the mayor as out of touch with Santa Fe history and culture.
Webber and Vigil Coppler are both members of the Democratic Party. Republican candidate and engineer Alexis Martinez Johnson is pursuing election for mayor after a failed congressional bid in 2020.
Conflicts over history in Santa Fe have escalated amid a national conversation about public markers paying tribute to historical figures linked to racism, slavery, and genocide.
Indigenous leaders and some younger Latino activists say figures from the region’s Spanish colonial era shouldn’t be celebrated because they oversaw the enslavement of Indigenous populations and tried to outlaw their cultural practices.
During Webber’s tenure as mayor, Santa Fe discontinued an annual reenactment of the return of Spanish settlers 12 years after the Pueblo Indian revolt of 1680.
A monument honoring Union soldiers who died fighting Indigenous tribes and Confederate soldiers was toppled by a tumultuous crowd last year.