Conservative radio show host Eddy Aragon, 46, is running for mayor of Albuquerque. The Albuquerque native, who once worked to get Democrats elected, says he’s proud of never having held an elected office. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of profiles on the Albuquerque mayoral candidates that the Journal will publish this week. Future articles will cover topics such as crime and homelessness.

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Eddy Aragon is a born salesman.

The Albuquerque native spent about 13 years in the commercial real estate industry, starting in the IT side, but later finding – using a personality test – that he had a soul. for sale, eventually negotiating deals in the booming 2000s Las Vegas market. , Nevada.

It’s been over a decade since the recession hit the industry, ultimately setting Aragon on a different path. Back in Albuquerque, he bought a radio station and hosted a daily Conservative talk show.

But now the man behind “The Rock of Talk” is in sale mode again, striving to convince a city with 75% more Democrats than Republicans registered that he – the only Republican in the 2021 municipal poll – is the best man to guide him.

Aragon has never held an elected office before, a badge he proudly wears that gives him something in common with former President Donald Trump, a man he says he admires.

“I don’t need a job,” Aragon said at a press conference in August. “I’m not going to run to become a professional politician. I run to serve the people, the city and the state.

Aragon, 46, arrived in the mayoral race like lightning during a summer monsoon.

The campaign was shaping up to be a two-man race between incumbent Tim Keller and Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, both Democrats, when Aragon decided to launch a ballot qualifying effort a few weeks before the deadline.

In 14 days, the Republican made himself the third candidate in the race by collecting enough signatures and then a few to put his name on the ballot – a feat he attributed in part to his grasp as as a radio host.

The campaign encountered some early turmoil when a critic sought to disqualify him from the poll, contesting his declared residence in the southeast Albuquerque office building where he broadcasts. Aragon said he lives there – showing a Journal reporter the small kitchen and even the futon he sleeps in in a room next to his radio studio – and that his residence is an authorized use of the property. He called the court challenge a “successful political job” by those trying to thwart his campaign. A state judge rejected the petition, confirming Aragon’s place on the ballot.

His name will appear on the ballot without party affiliation because municipal elections are officially non-partisan. But Aragon vehemently promoted himself as the only Republican on the list.

It may seem counterintuitive in a county where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in 2020 – 61% versus 37% – but Aragon believes there is an appetite to recalibrate a local political landscape that he says leans too far to the left.

“I will do my best to continue to lead our fight so that we can keep a certain balance,” he said in a recent interview with the Journal. “All that is good in this country has always been achieved through argument, conflict and confrontation, but also through a certain level of compromise that naturally emerges from people presenting their arguments or their choices. “

Aragon actually joined the Republican Party after a deep affiliation with the other side.

A graduate of the University of New Mexico with degrees in political science and economics, Aragon was once an intern in the Washington office of former US Senator Jeff Bingaman and said he spent years from his youth in work to elect other Democrats. He said he worked on campaigns for Tom Udall and former State Representative Raymond Sanchez. He still refers to Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, a Democrat who is now the state’s administrator of natural resources, as “the smartest politician in our state, bar none.”

But Aragon said his break with the Democratic Party occurred during the 2004 presidential election cycle while he was working on Wesley Clark’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination. Leading Democrats have treated Clark, a retired army general, with open contempt, Aragon said.

“By then I was done” with the party, he said.

He essentially moved away from politics, diving deeper into his career in commercial real estate. He worked for periods in Phoenix and Las Vegas, Nevada, riding the wave before the Great Recession decimated Sin City’s economy.

He returned to Albuquerque and got involved with KIVA radio (4:00 p.m.), first as an operator. With the help of his father, a construction subcontractor specializing in the installation of steel, Aragon acquired the station in 2014.

Aragon said he started listening to more talk radio and the tea movement in particular resonated with him, pushing his turn to the right.

Q&A mayoral candidate Edward Joseph Aragon Jr.

Name: Edward Joseph Aragon Jr. Political party: Republican AGE: 46 Education: BA political science / BA economics…

“I felt more ideologically aligned with some of the things we were talking about there – certainly personal choice, freedom, freedom… and I saw government less and less as part of the solution,” he said. he declares.

In his quest for the mayor’s office of Albuquerque, Aragon has made COVID-19 one of five pillars of his platform – namely challenging public health orders issued by the state government aimed at curbing the spread of virus now linked to 4,764 deaths in New Mexico. He protested the vaccine requirement for entry to the state fair and called the Backstreet Grill “valiant” for the now-closed Old Town restaurant’s refusal to comply with mask mandates. He said he was not vaccinated.

While the courts have repeatedly upheld the authority of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration in such cases, Aragon has said that as mayor he will question them in any way he can, claiming the larger city state should have some control. He opposes the warrants for vaccines and masks and has said he will not demand that city workers get vaccinated. It should be a choice, he said.

Aragon has said he would like to hire a city-level epidemiologist, but as someone who has strongly opposed pandemic-related business closures, what would he do as mayor if the internal epidemiologist recommended closing some because of the risk of viruses?

“We would listen to epidemiologists on the basis of science, but I don’t believe they are making the final decision on behalf of the city,” he said.

Aragon maintains that the government’s response to the pandemic deprived Albuquerque of its quality of life.

“We all have a certain level of insanity that has come with COVID, and I ask that it be brought under control,” he said.

Although Aragon has never appeared on a ballot for an elected post, he has flirted with politics before. He registered as a candidate for mayor of Albuquerque in 2017, but then stepped down, and he continued the Republican Party nomination for this year’s 1st Congressional District special election, although the Central state members of the party chose Mark Moores.

Father of two young sons, Aragon said he did not want the title of “mayor” and would instead call himself “city manager”.

“It’s not about you or your political career; it’s about doing a job for the city of Albuquerque, ”he said.

Aragon said he would take office looking for in-depth analyzes of existing functions – he talks about “forensic audits” to assess the effectiveness of spending models in areas such as public safety, utilities. homeless people and even public transport.

He would work, for example, to pull the $ 133 million Albuquerque rapid transit project off Central Avenue if it is economically feasible, although he is not yet sure what figure is achievable.

He also sees the potential to improve morale within the Albuquerque Police Department, advocating for changes such as a no-go policy in trials and an overtime system that spreads the workload. – and additional pay – more evenly across the department.

He wants the city to think differently about employee hours, promoting varied working hours – something he says meets the needs of modern workers and has the added benefit of easing traffic. “We’re trying to talk about a smart city, but I think the way we’ve approached some of the issues is pretty unintelligent,” he said. “I think we can improve it if we assess what it is professionally.”