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County elects New Mexico’s first Black district attorney

November 9, 2020 GMT

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Voters in Dona Ana County have elected the first Black district attorney in New Mexico after he ran unopposed, officials said.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that Gerald Byers, 62, said he believes people will be able to work together toward the elusive goal of total justice.

“People expect it and people deserve it,” he said. “My intention for my office is to focus on the mission of serving the people and pursuing justice. Anything else is secondary.”

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Byers said the race for district attorney should be the least politicized contest because it shouldn’t be about delivering justice for members of one political party.

Henry Valdez, director of the administrative office of district attorneys, has said he isn’t aware of any other African Americans in the state who have held the office.

“I’m happy. I’m thankful for all the people who helped me and supported me and gave me guidance and direction and needed confidence,” Byers told the Sun-News.

Byers was born in Germany. He eventually moved to Texas where he was a commissioned officer on a naval base and served as a security guard. He decided to go to law school and graduated from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1995.

Byers said he began his career at the Bernalillo County district attorney’s office while in school through a program that allowed third-year law students to prosecute cases under the supervision of a prosecutor. His first job was at the district attorney’s office in Gallup, and he has worked across the state and in several Texas counties since then.