Accused extortionist wins New Mexico mayoral race

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 07, 2012 10:13 PM

By Zelie Pollon

SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - Voters in a New Mexico town have handed the keys to city hall to a man barred from the building after allegedly trying to blackmail his main opponent with a video from a strip bar.

Daniel Salinas, who was arrested last month, won the mayoral race in Sunland Park, New Mexico, on Tuesday, according to unofficial results. Salinas received 637 votes to 553 for Gerardo Hernandez.

Salinas was accused of trying to force Hernandez out of the election in the U.S.-Mexico border town with a tape showing his rival receiving a lap dance from a topless stripper, New Mexico State Police spokesman Robert McDonald said.

McDonald said Salinas, who is charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, tampering with evidence and alleged blackmail, was released on a $50,000 cash bond with the condition he not enter City Hall or contact city workers.

City Manager Jaime Aguilera also faces the same charges.

If convicted of a felony, Salinas would not be allowed to hold public office. In addition, there is an investigation into allegations of voter fraud in the election.

"They're still arresting people for voter fraud so it's all ongoing, rolling into one big investigation," McDonald said.

The election on Tuesday was to replace former mayor Martin Resendiz, who resigned last year after admitting to signing contracts while drunk.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Paul Simao)