Saying he had earned the support of voters fed up with crime, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III cruised to victory, according to unofficial election results.
With more than 223,838 votes counted and all county precincts reporting, Gonzales, a Democrat, finished with nearly a 10-point lead over his challenger, Republican Lou Golson.
Albuquerque Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff just after 11 p.m. projected Gonzales won re-election in the Bernalillo County sheriff race.
Gonzales said the votes showed that the Bernalillo County residents are satisfied with the job he’s done as sheriff.
“I feel very happy with the result. It solidifies and validates our performance,” Gonzales said. “We’re one of the highest-performing sheriff’s departments in the state. And that’s a big accomplishment.”
Looking on to his next term, Gonzales said his main goals are to continue to chip away at the county’s crime rate and to make technological improvements to the office. He has suggested several improvements that are needed, such as replacing deputy vehicles or improving means of communicating with deputies who are in more rural parts of the county, such as the East Mountains.
Though down by thousands of votes, Golson remained optimistic late Tuesday night.
“We’re really close,” he said.
Gonzales, after working his way up the ranks during his career with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, was appointed sheriff in 2009 by the Bernalillo County Commission. He then lost his campaign for sheriff in 2010 before winning the job back in 2014.
Over the past four years, the BCSO has increased the number of enforcement operations deputies have done inside city limits. Gonzales has said that will continue, which he said will help the city and county see a decrease in crime.
The BCSO typically patrols much of the unincorporated parts of the county, but they have jurisdiction throughout.
Gonzales previously said he would consider any additional changes within the sheriff’s office after the election. A review of the office’s use-of-force and pursuit policies by an outside firm led to numerous recommendations and updates to existing policies. Gonzales said he wasn’t going to closely consider those recommendations until after the election.
In Gonzales’ first term, the number of pursuits his deputies have been involved in skyrocketed. Deputies were involved in 11 pursuits in 2016; that number jumped to 74 in 2017. That same year, deputies were also involved in a higher than usual number of shootings.
Gonzales, however, has said that criminals are to blame for those increases and that he supports his deputies.
“I’d like to thank the public for being aware of what’s really going on in Bernalillo County, a crisis in crime,” Gonzales said. “(The voters) are sending a strong message that they’re tired of crime.”
Golson is a retired Albuquerque police officer. His career took a drastic change in 2015 when he was shot in the line of duty during a traffic stop. Golson’s duties were restricted after the shooting and he ultimately retired from Albuquerque police before announcing his run for sheriff.
The candidates did appear together at a public forum, but never did a full debate during the campaign. Gonzales turned down an invitation to debate Golson on live television. One of the major issues separating the two candidates is their stance on on-body cameras for sheriff’s deputies.
Golson said deputies should use the cameras, which he said creates transparency and accountability. Gonzales has been reluctant to use the technology, saying that he hasn’t seen proof they are effective.
He said in a recent Facebook post that rather than purchasing lapel cameras, he would like to hire more deputies, and give them raises and better equipment.