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Next Bernco sheriff credits voters

The next Bernalillo County sheriff said he won by 5 percentage points because voters were well-informed on a variety of issues.

Democrat Manuel Gonzales defeated Republican Scott Baird in the race to replace incumbent Dan Houston. The race was within about 3 percentage points until about midnight.

Gonzales’ campaign questioned Baird’s history as a deputy, including a prior suspension. Baird did not return calls for comment Tuesday night and Wednesday. Gonzales said a candidate’s campaign platform, along with background and record as a law enforcement officer, should be considered in a sheriff’s race.

“The same as any other elected official,” he said.

A background check added to his endorsements and reputation won him the election, Gonzales said.

Houston, who lost to Baird in the Republican primary, endorsed Gonzales and campaigned for him in an automated voice message to voters. Gonzales said the vacating sheriff’s support should help his transition into the office.

He said his first task will be finding a group of retired or current deputies to help him analyze the performance of the various units within the sheriff’s office, and the office’s budget.

Unlike the Bernalillo County sheriff’s race, the sheriff’s offices in Torrance, Valencia and Sandoval counties won’t see much of a shake-up. That’s because the incumbent candidates in each county won re-election.

In Sandoval County, Sheriff Doug Wood’s nearly 20,000 votes were enough to keep him in office, having beaten opponent Jesse James Casaus by more than 2,600 ballots.

Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard won handily, with almost 65 percent of the vote. In Torrance County, Sheriff Heath White won re-election with nearly 75 percent of the vote.

The Tuesday-night election also decided county commission races in each of those counties, according to unofficial election results. In Torrance County, the victors were James Frost with about 61 percent of the vote and Julia Ducharme, who won in a three-way race after getting 45 percent.

In Sandoval County, Democrat R. James Dominguez beat Republican Gary Miles with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

And in Valencia County, the winning commissioners were Helen Cole, David Hyder and Jhonathan M. Aragon.