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Bernco Sheriff Dan Houston edged out in GOP primary

Sheriff Dan Houston speaks to reporters during his election-watch party at El Pinto restaurant on Tuesday. He was locked in a tight race with retired sheriff's deputy Scott Baird. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Sheriff Dan Houston speaks to reporters during his election-watch party at El Pinto restaurant on Tuesday. He was locked in a tight race with retired sheriff’s deputy Scott Baird. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston’s bid for re-election ended Tuesday when a man who was once one of his top deputies, Scott Baird, edged him out for the Republican nomination, according to unofficial results.

Baird had about 48 percent of the vote to Houston’s 46 percent.

The margin on the Democratic side was just as close, with ex-Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III claiming 51 percent of the vote over court security officer Sylvester Stanley.

The totals were unofficial. They didn’t include about 415 ballots that will have to be hand-tallied or handled later for one reason or another.

Voters whose eligibility is questioned, for example, have their ballots set aside for review before the votes are included in the totals. The ballots will be tabulated during the canvassing process that leads to certification of the vote, which can take about two weeks.

BAIRD: GOP nominee for County Sheriff

BAIRD: GOP nominee for County Sheriff

Houston, who won the sheriff’s office in 2010, said he respects the will of the people.

“I’ve had a good, long, successful career,” Houston said as results rolled in, showing him behind. “I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to be the sheriff.”

County clerk’s spokeswoman Liz Hamm said about 16.5 percent of the 332,000 eligible voters turned out to vote. That’s down from about 23 percent in the 2012 primary.

The Journal was unable to reach Baird late Tuesday. He once served as a chief deputy under Houston and they also attended the same church at one point.

Baird retired from the sheriff’s department last summer amid a rift between Houston and Legacy Church, a mega-church whose pastor had previously endorsed Houston from the pulpit but shifted his endorsement to Baird, a Legacy Church member.

Houston also went to Legacy but left after the rift with church leaders.

Also seeking the Republican nomination on Tuesday was Jason Nufer, a plumber and Army veteran.

GONZALES: Democrats' choice for sheriff

GONZALES: Democrats’ choice for sheriff

Gonzales, meanwhile, defeated Stanley in the Democratic primary, according to unofficial returns. This fall, he’ll have a chance to reclaim the office he once held for about a year. The County Commission appointed Gonzales sheriff in December 2009, succeeding Darren White, who had resigned to join Mayor Richard Berry’s administration at City Hall.

Among other county races:

  • County Commissioner Wayne Johnson turned back a challenge from John Madrid in the Republican primary. He will face Democrat Michael Malloy in November for the right to continue representing District 5, which covers the East Mountains and some of the Northeast Heights.
  • Probate Judge Willow Misty Parks defeated challenger Dominic Levi Lafayette in the Democratic primary. She has no Republican opponent in the general election.
  • In County Commission District 1, which covers the North Valley and part of the West Side, voters this fall will pick between incumbent Debbie O’Malley, a Democrat, and Simon Kubiak, a Republican. They were unopposed in the primary.
  • Assessor Tanya Giddings was unopposed for the Democratic nomination in her race and will face Republican George E. Torres in the general. He was also unopposed Tuesday.

Journal staff writer Charles Brunt contributed to this report.