Today, the Journal announces its primary endorsements for Bernalillo County sheriff and contested races for Second Judicial District judges. For ongoing coverage that will include candidate Q&As and more endorsements, go to abqjournal.com/election-guide.
Bernalillo County sheriff
Democrat, John D. Allen
Allen says candidly one of the problems with local law enforcement is a failure to cooperate. He says BCSO deputies have often asked for permission to assist the Albuquerque Police Department “and most of the time were told ‘no.'”
Allen wants to repair that rift, and he has the law enforcement credentials and leadership experience to do it. He started as a patrolman with the New Mexico State Police in 1997, moved over to BCSO in 2001 where he held supervisory roles until his retirement in January 2020, and now is a lead instructor at the Central New Mexico Community College Law Enforcement Academy, where he’s a master instructor on use-of-force tactics.
He knows BCSO well, having served with the department nearly 20 years — and is not shy about calling for change. Allen believes, and we agree, that crime in the Metro is greatly under-reported because victims have given up filing reports. He’s committed to far greater transparency concerning crime stats.
Allen also wants to bring back the property crime unit and believes every sheriff’s deputy should be a trained field investigator. He wants to reposition sheriff’s deputies so that fewer of them are serving on task forces and more are serving in the field.
Violent crime hit close to home for Allen last month when his wife was almost carjacked. He says she swerved to get away and called 911 but was placed on hold for 2-3 minutes. He says crime victims making such emergency calls shouldn’t be placed on hold for 10 seconds, and he’s right.
Allen faces Rudy B. Mora, Matthew R. McCoy, Lawrence G. Koren, Philip A. Snedeker, Patricio R. Ruiloba and Sheridan J. Lund in the Democratic primary. The winner faces the GOP primary winner and Libertarian Kaelan Ashby Dreyer in the general election.
Bernalillo County sheriff
Republican Paul A. Pacheco
Pacheco, who served 27 years with APD, says he will reorganize the Sheriff’s Office beginning on Day 1. He says he would first reassign 23 of 25 full-time deputies from a federal task force and then ask the County Commission to fund 75 new deputies. That would be an ambitious task: first getting the funding, then being able to fill those positions. He says it’s crucial to have enough police in the community to perform basic functions like traffic enforcement.
Pacheco says he’s running because his two daughters are “scared to death to live in Albuquerque.” They’re not alone; it’s a sentiment we’ve heard often.
Pacheco says BCSO is woefully mismanaged, with only 77 of its 325 sworn officers on the street, and he has ambitious plans to bump that percentage to more like 50% to 60%. He also asserts there is a troubling lack of communication between the current sheriff and DA’s Office, resulting in far too many cases being dismissed. He’s committed to changing that and producing accurate, complete reports for prosecutors.
Pacheco was a former two-term state legislator, and was integral in getting the state into federal compliance on the Real ID Act as well as passage of a statewide “Silver Alert” system in 2013 for missing individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He also served for more than four years as a deputy secretary for the Department of Corrections. he understands the need for rehabilitation.
He faces Republicans David T. Bibb, Dereck Alan Scott and Joshua James Ryan Lawrence in the primary. The winner will face the Democratic primary winner and Libertarian candidate in November.
Second Judicial District judge, Division 10
Democratic incumbent, Bruce C. Fox
Fox brings a wide range of legal expertise to the bench, having served as chief judge for the Pueblo of Laguna and as a public defender in Albuquerque before his appointment as a judge last year.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Fox to the judicial district’s criminal division in February 2021, where he presides over third- and fourth-degree felony cases. He’s a strong advocate for drug and other specialty courts, as well as for pretrial diversion programs that help those charged with non-violent offenses recover from addiction and mental health issues. As a public defender for 10 years, he understands it can be better to get treatment to those who want it. It is important if elected Fox differentiates between violent and non-violent offenses and detains those who pose a public threat.
Fox was appointed judge after a rigorous process that included a screening and interview by a 14-member Judicial Nominating Commission, followed by a further screening and interview with the governor. And he’s earned election as a district judge.
Fox faces Democrat Edward L. Benavidez in the primary. The winner faces no opposition in the general election.
Second Judicial District judge, Division 16
Democratic incumbent, Jennifer J. Wernersbach
Wernersbach was also appointed to the district court’s criminal division by Gov. Lujan Grisham last year after being vetted and recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission.
Wernersbach practiced as a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer for 17 years in Albuquerque’s criminal courts before her appointment. Her background gives her important insight into court processes and an understanding of balancing defendants’ rights with public safety.
Wernersbach, who has lived Downtown for 15 years, knows the Metro area. She also understands the need to exercise judicial discretion and apply the law as she sees fit. She is clear she does not rely on crutches like the Arnold Tool, despite what she says can be overwhelming caseloads.
Wernersbach is also a big believer in specialty courts, which she says are effective at reducing recidivism. She’s also earned election as a district judge.
Wernersbach faces Democrat Emeterio Leroy Rudolfo in the primary election. The winner faces no opposition in the general election in November.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.