ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There will likely be competitive primary and general elections for Bernalillo County sheriff after three men signed up to challenge Manuel Gonzales III for his job.
Gonzales, a Democrat, will first face fellow Democrats Sylvester Stanley, who retired from the sheriff’s office in 2002 as a captain, and Joe Williams, an 81-year-old man who has never worked in law enforcement and said he was troubled by less than favorable service from law enforcement officers in recent years.
The winner of that June primary will be up against Republican Lou Golson in the November general election. Golson is a retired Albuquerque police officer who left the force after being shot and seriously wounded in a traffic stop in 2015.
Tuesday was filing day for major party candidates in several county positions up for election this year. Other than sheriff, two County Commission seats and the county assessor are up for grabs.
Gonzales was elected in 2014. He did not return several calls for comment Tuesday.
He has recently faced questions about the policies in place within the sheriff’s office. County commissioners have considered legislation that would set aside money to audit the sheriff’s office to see if its policies are in line with best practices around the country. And attorneys have cited policies governing on-body cameras, pursuits and use-of-force as contributing factors in a spate of deputy-involved shootings last year that led to several lawsuits against the county.
On Tuesday, several candidates for sheriff said they’d change certain policies if elected.
Stanley, who since retiring from the sheriff’s office has been a police chief for the Gallup, Isleta and the Jicarilla police departments, said officers under his watch have used both lapel and dashboard cameras.
“We’ve got to gain trust and respect from the community,” he said. “I think at the end of the day (cameras) come out in favor of the police officer, and the department and the community. Everybody wins. You just need to get people proper training.”
Golson also said he’s in favor of cameras.
“I can prove that they are really helpful, just from my experience,” said Golson, whose lapel camera video of his shooting showed how fast a traffic stop can turn deadly for a police officer. “I didn’t want videos when we first got them, either. But it turns out they do more good than harm.”
Williams owns property throughout the state and a bookstore. He said he’s had several negative encounters with law enforcement over the years, such as deputies who fail to investigate gunshots on his property or hassles with getting proper dog tags on his pets. So he’s running for sheriff to change the culture of law enforcement in the county.
“That’s the problem. The only ones who sheriff are the ones who ride the motorcycles and give 5,000 tickets in 10 years, and they don’t know anything about property owners or the Constitution,” he said.”(Sheriff’s deputies) are more oriented to football talk and motorcycle guys, and I want to represent private property in the sheriff’s office.”
He could not provide the Journal with a photograph Tuesday evening.
Golson said he’s running for sheriff because he wasn’t ready to leave law enforcement when injuries he suffered during his shooting made it so he couldn’t return to full duty.
“We’re public servants and we need to think like public servants,” he said. “It’s not us versus them, it’s us for them.”
Stanley, who has ran unsuccessfully for the position more than once, said his experience running police departments will be a major asset.
“It makes a big difference because you’ve already had to deal with the management stuff,” he said. “You’re the department head, have people work for you, look at different grants to prepare funds. You have to look at things on a different level. … But you know what your men and women are going through and what they need on the lower end.”
In other county races, District 1 County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley will face Gabriel Parra in the Democratic primary. There are no Republicans in the race.
In County Commission District 5, a seat formerly held by State Auditor Wayne Johnson, Charlene Pyskoty is running as a Democrat, Natasha Hadrych-Rosier and James Smith are running as Republicans and Michael Wismer as a Libertarian.
County Assessor Tanya Giddings is running unopposed.
Correction: The original article left James Smith off of the list of candidates for County Commission District 5.