socialist, 25, hopes to shake up the race for mayor of Albuquerque | Local News


Children at school called Nicholas Bevins “Rain Man”. The unwanted nickname originated from the main character in a movie about an autistic man who was kidnapped by his greedy younger brother.

Neither Bevins, now 25, nor his classmates were born when Rain man released in theaters in 1988. The other students knew that Bevins had autism. They used “Rain Man” as an insult.

It was a first lesson for him about how harshly someone different can be treated.

Bevins is still an outsider, this time in big city politics. He ran for Albuquerque town hall against all odds.

It would be a tough race to win for any young newcomer. Bevins says he’s struggling to gain attention as the ad is lavished on Mayor Tim Keller and one of his challengers, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales.

“The media almost completely ignored our campaign while writing big stories about the incumbent and the sheriff who is running,” Bevins said.

The mayor’s race is non-partisan, but Keller and Gonzales are registered Democrats. Bevins is an independent, but only because there is no state party encompassing his political preference.

Bevins calls himself a “libertarian socialist” and he has a platform that he says pleases many in Albuquerque.

“There is a thirst for leftist politics in this city,” he said.

Perhaps Bevins’ most radical plan is to legalize drugs in Albuquerque.

He says his administration would do so by ordering police to ignore drug crimes. Instead, the money would be spent on housing and treatment programs aimed at turning drug addicts into sober citizens.

Allowing drug trafficking to take place with impunity is an idea that comes straight from Thread, an old TV series set in the drug-infested city of Baltimore. Bevins says reducing demand instead of trying to control supply is the right approach to tackling drugs.

“I subscribe to the idea that the people closest to the problems are the closest to the solutions,” he said. “I see the problems every day. They will not be resolved by spending more money on the promise to hire more police officers – an approach that has repeatedly failed in Albuquerque.

A tenant who lives with two roommates, Bevins travels around town by skateboard, bus and using the Sun Van system. Sun Van provides transportation for people whose disabilities may make it difficult to use fixed route services.

He says his situation gives him a view of Albuquerque that Keller and Gonzales don’t.

Keller suggests increasing the police budget. Gonzales uses “tough on crime” as the centerpiece of his campaign pitch. Bevins says the two are out of step.

“People are terrified of calling the police in this town,” Bevins said.

The Albuquerque Police Department has a documented history of excessive use of force, including lethal force. It’s under a federal court order to carry out training and practice reforms, but Bevins says little has changed.

One of his first moves as mayor, according to Bevins, would be to fire police chief Harold Medina, appointed by Keller in March.

While working a rhythm in 2002, Medina shot a 14-year-old boy. Medina said the teenager pointed a gun at him and another policeman. The boy’s weapon turned out to be a BB pistol.

Bevins says Keller’s selection of Medina was another setback for a department that lacks the public’s trust.

As for Gonzales, he was radical in his own way in resisting a proven method of police accountability.

Gonzales became Sheriff of Bernalillo County in 2015, and for years he refused to equip his deputies with body cameras.

Good cops don’t shy away from cameras. Accurate recording of their work can demolish frivolous allegations of misconduct.

Gonzales relented last year after the state legislature passed a law requiring all law enforcement officers to use body cameras.

Keller began his political career as a liberal senator. Gonzales’ ideas on tackling crime have already earned him a glowing tweet from then-President Donald Trump.

Yet Bevins sees no practical difference between Keller and Gonzales. They talk a lot about the police in a year when the murder rate in Albuquerque has risen. But, says Bevins, the top candidates have done nothing innovative to reduce crime or improve relations between cops and residents.

Bevins’ hero in politics is Senator Bernie Sanders. At 19, Bevins volunteered for Sanders’ first presidential campaign.

Bevins helped Sanders again last year. As one of the senator’s “victory captains”, Bevins advocated for Sanders throughout Albuquerque.

Additionally, Bevins campaigned for Liberal candidates for the legislature and city council of Albuquerque.

Bevins attended community college and the University of New Mexico. He did not graduate.

He has worked in a hospital dialysis unit and in quality control for private companies, but currently has no job.

Yet, he says, he works every day. He sees his job as an upheaval in the mayoral race that would otherwise be what Bevins hates – politics as usual.

Ringside Seat is an opinion piece on people, politics and current affairs. Contact Milan Simonich at [email protected] or 505-986-3080.

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