John Allen, a Democrat, has been elected sheriff of Bernalillo County, beating out Republican Paul Pacheco and Libertarian Kaelan Ashby Dreyer.
The 47-year-old said he is proud to be the first Black sheriff elected in the county.
Journal Pollster Brian Sanderoff called the race for Allen a little after 9 p.m.
With all vote centers reporting late Tuesday, unofficial results showed Allen had 54% of the vote, Pacheco had 42% and Dreyer had 4%.
Allen spent the evening at an election event alongside his cousin, Laura Montoya, who was winning her race for State Treasurer.
“I feel awesome, I’m excited,” Allen, a former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputy, said Tuesday night. “I have the honor and privilege of taking the seat. It’s about the citizens of Bernalillo County so for them to afford their trust in me means the world to me.”
After campaigning on the need to reform the sheriff’s office and contending that he was pushed out for disagreeing with sitting Sheriff Manual Gonzales, Allen said he’s ready to bring needed change, starting immediately. Gonzales could not seek reelection because of term limits.
“We’re a victim, all of us, of this crime and, as the chief law enforcement officer, that’s something I need to address immediately — not on Jan. 1,” Allen said. “That starts tomorrow. That’s something we will be working on and making plans for.”
Both Allen and Pacheco are veteran law enforcement officers who grew up in Albuquerque.
Allen spent 19 years with BCSO and four with New Mexico State Police and is a lead instructor at the Central New Mexico Community College law enforcement academy.
Pacheco, 58, was with the Albuquerque Police Department for 27 years before being elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives in 2013. In 2017, he was appointed deputy Cabinet secretary for the Corrections Department and then became deputy director of the Security Threat Intelligence Unit.
Dreyer — a 21-year-old activist and farmer — has never served in law enforcement and told the Journal he was running as a protest candidate.
In an incident that made national news last year, Dreyer was arrested amidst a scuffle over a so-called “Dongcopter” — a drone with a phallic object attached to it — during a mayoral campaign event for Sheriff Gonzales.
Dreyer’s friends had interrupted the event with the offending drone. Then, when it was grabbed out of the sky by the establishment’s owner, Dreyer tried to get it back, landing a glancing blow on Gonzales’ arm. He was charged with petty misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor resisting an officer, but the case was dismissed when prosecutors did not appear for hearings.
The race for Bernalillo County sheriff had grown contentious in its final stretch, with Pacheco airing ads calling Allen a “dirty cop” and Allen accusing Pacheco of colluding with Sheriff Gonzales.
Allen had been sued for an unlawful search when he was a rookie officer with State Police — an incident he has said he learned from.
In June, Gonzales submitted seven misconduct reports to the Law Enforcement Academy board appearing to allege that Allen had committed overtime abuse as a sergeant several years ago. However, a Department of Public Safety spokesman said that, because the allegations were older than 90 days and details were limited, the board could not investigate.