The sheriff is back in town.
According to unofficial results, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza defeated Santa Fe Police Department Lt. David Webb Jr. in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary election.
Mendoza, who centered his campaign on a desire to accelerate a number of initiatives he said were hamstrung by the coronavirus pandemic, had 56 percent of the vote late Tuesday evening, according to results from the Secretary of State’s Office. Because no Republican opted to run for sheriff, Mendoza is poised to win a second term in November.
As Mendoza read vote totals at about 9:30 p.m., chants of “MVP” and “four more years” arose from the crowd gathered at the Doubletree Inn, where he held his election party.
“I think we are confident that we won this race,” Mendoza said. “I can say this: We had an amazing team, we executed our strategy, stood on our accomplishments and I think that stood out. I think people really understood that Santa Fe County is safer and we are doing a great job out there. ... We are looking forward to some great things over the next four years.”
Mendoza, 49, said he was looking forward to another term after having so much of his first four years overshadowed by the pandemic.
He said he’s determined to strengthen efforts such as the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which helps redirect those with mental health issues from potential incarceration, and the ABLE Project, which concentrates on misconduct issues within the sheriff’s office. He also wants to continue expanding the office’s sex offender registration program.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “We are going work on these programs, we are going to build them and we are going to reengage the community. We really got stifled by COVID.”
Mendoza’s path to victory was not easy. Members of the New Mexico Coalition of Public Safety, on behalf of the Santa Fe County Deputies Association, sent a letter to Mendoza, then-County Manager Katherine Miller and the County Commission, alleging a lack of transparency, unfair disciplinary practices, retaliation, violations of the state Labor Standards Act and “cronyism” under Mendoza’s watch.
The local deputies’ union president is Eddie Webb, David Webb Jr.’s cousin.
Mendoza said he believed the Webbs’ relationship played a role in the vote.
Juan Ríos, Mendoza’s campaign manager and spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said he believed voters saw a candidate who hadn’t strayed from the issues he committed to in 2018, including alternative incarceration programs and background checks for gun purchases.
“If you look at his campaign, he had a broad cross section of the community behind him,” Ríos said. “He had a varied base, and those guys got out to vote. … I think he delivered the vote.”
Contacted Tuesday night, Webb said he was not yet prepared to comment.
Mendoza, thrust into the national spotlight in October after a gun held by actor Alec Baldwin discharged, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust, seemed happy to see the race come to its conclusion.
“I am so glad this is over because we are going to get back to work and help people,” he told his supporters.