ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A judicial candidate convicted in a fatal drunken driving accident and a sheriff's candidate with three prior convictions for driving while intoxicated were among those who won their party's nomination in Tuesday's New Mexico primary.
A police chief in a small, southeastern New Mexico city who was suspended for having sex in the back of an ambulance, however, lost his judicial bid.
And Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella not only lost his seat to a deputy his once fired, he woke up Wednesday morning to a federal raid on his home.
Such were the outcomes of some of the more unusual races in Tuesday's elections, which also selected gubernatorial and statewide nominees.
In the state's most populous county, Scott James Baird narrowly defeated incumbent Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston for the GOP nomination. Baird drew attention before the election when the Albuquerque Journal reported he had three DWI convictions between 1985 to 1987
Baird said those arrests were 30 years ago and happened before he became a father and husband.
"Over 25 years ago in his youth, Scott struggled with three DWIs and came to the realization that he needed to turn his life around; and the transformation was remarkable," Baird's campaign website says. "It was during this struggle that Scott found his faith, found his bride, became a father and gave up drinking."
Houston had problems of his own, being accused by a former employee of discriminating against Latinas. The county later settled a whistleblower lawsuit connected to Houston for $570,000.
In Rio Arriba County, known for its unusual politics, Alexandra Naranjo won a four-way field of Democratic candidates for a magistrate judge seat that include a once-suspended lawyer and two candidates — including herself — with drunken-driving records.
Naranjo, 39, was convicted of DWI following a fatal May 1986 wreck when her car had a blowout on New Mexico Highway 4 and hit bicyclist Forrest Fukushima, who died at the scene, according to court records. Her blood-alcohol content was 0.18, more than twice the 0.08 legal limit, the records state. But the documents also say "all of the witnesses and evidence gathered from the scene indicate that the accident was unavoidable."
Naranjo was sentenced to 30 days in a work-release jail program and alcohol-recovery treatment.
In southeastern New Mexico, Jal Police Chief Larry Burns lost to James Brown in the GOP primary for a magistrate judge seat in Lea County on Tuesday.
Last month, two television stations aired portions of a video of Burns having sex with a female companion inside a Jal ambulance parked where the city's ambulances are kept.
Burns was suspended following an investigation by Jal City Manager Bob Gallagher. An officer that authorities say hid a video camera and released footage was later fired.
As for Rodella, the Rio Arriba County sheriff who lost his seat by 200 votes, agents carried out a search warrant on his home Wednesday morning in connection with a federal investigation. FBI spokesman Frank Fisher declined to give any details.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff spokesman Jake Arnold said the search of Rodella's home is connected to a March arrest of Michael Tafoya. He was arrested on charges of aggravated assault on a peace officer and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
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