Mendoza wins sheriff’s race; Dems nominate Garcia for commission seat

June 6, 2018 GMT

Santa Fe County’s Democratic voters have spoken: Adan Mendoza is almost guaranteed to be the next sheriff after winning a four-way race for the party’s nomination, and Rudy Garcia, a Santa Fe school board member, will represent Democrats in the District 3 County Commission race in November.

There are no Republicans running for sheriff, which means Mendoza, the Democratic nominee, is virtually assured of the job.

There also is no Republican candidate seeking southern Santa Fe County’s District 3 seat on the commission, but voters will have a choice in November: Former commissioner Mike Anaya is running as an independent. He is the brother of incumbent Commissioner Robert Anaya, D-Galisteo, who is term-limited. A rancher, Mike Anaya held the seat from 2003-11 as a Democrat.

Mendoza held 43 percent of the vote, beating out former sheriff’s Lt. Linda Ortiz, who, with almost 36 percent, fell short of becoming the county’s first female sheriff. Both candidates far outpaced state Public Regulation Commission investigator Manny Anaya (14 percent) and retired police officer and sheriff’s Deputy Leonard Romero (7 percent).

“The issues I talked about throughout my campaign really resonated with the citizens of Santa Fe County,” Mendoza said. “I’m honored that the voters have the confidence in me. They gave me their vote of confidence to move forward, and I’m up for the job.”

Mendoza, 45, was the youngest of the four candidates but spent nearly 20 years climbing the ranks in the sheriff’s office, which handles law enforcement in the majority of the county’s 2,000 square miles.

Mendoza retired in 2016 as major, the department’s third in command. When he takes office in January as expected, Mendoza will oversee about 100 officers and 30 civilians. The position pays about $78,500 a year.

Mendoza, who has a degree in criminology from the University of New Mexico, said during his campaign that he hopes to cut down response times in rural parts of the county, to create a more efficient system for reporting minor crimes and to bring a more compassionate approach to drug crimes.

One of his priorities, he said, is combating issues of opioid abuse that plague the county with a treatment-centered approach, sending low-level drug offenders to help instead of to jail.

“That is one of my priorities … bringing compassion and resources and alternatives to incarceration,” he told The New Mexican in a May interview.

Mendoza will take the post from Sheriff Robert Garcia, who will leave office under term limits. Garcia supported Mendoza for the position.

Appointed to a vacant school board seat in December, Rudy Garcia, 47, was at a board meeting Tuesday night as results of his primary race for county commissioner began to come in. He learned during a phone call from The New Mexican that he was far ahead with close to 55 percent of the votes.

He bested retired contractor Filandro Anaya, no relation to Mike and Robert Anaya, who received over 26 percent of the votes, and retired Indian Health Services epidemiology director Don Reece, who got 19 percent.

“I’m totally excited about it. I’m just kind of, like, awed,” Garcia said. “I just really appreciate the voters of District 3. I really appreciate the communities I’ve worked for and assisted, and I’ll continue to be a public servant to the taxpayers.”

Although he has experience in the public sector as a legislative liaison for the Santa Fe County Manager’s Office and is a member of the school board, the commission seat would be Garcia’s first elected office.

He said Tuesday night that he wasn’t sure if he would continue to serve on both the school board and the County Commission. The board meetings overlap on Tuesdays.

The vast District 3 covers more than half the county and is roughly the same square mileage as Rhode Island. It begins in Santa Fe city limits and covers the Turquoise Trail over to points east of Galisteo and Lamy. The district stretches down to Edgewood and the East Mountains area, which is much closer to Albuquerque than Santa Fe.