Gary McDaniel, 58, is the Republican candidate for the position and Trudy Reed, 35, is the Democrat candidate. Both McDaniel and Reed won competitive primaries to set the stage for Election Day, which is Nov. 6.
McDaniel was appointed to the position by Gov. Susana Martinez in April after the seat had been vacant for more than half a year after Magistrate Judge Wilma Charley resigned.
McDaniel said his trial run has made him eager for more work as a magistrate.
"I am in good health and would like to be magistrate for years to come," he said.
Reed, who works as a social worker for San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, said she hopes to use the magistrate judge position to begin a career in civic service.
"People have said I'm only 35," Reed said. "I want to be a model for all young people I want to inspire young Navajo people.
"I want voters to give me the opportunity to be a new, young leader who wants to make a difference in San Juan County."
Reed is a member of the Navajo Nation. Magistrate Judge Division 4 represents county residents who live south of the San Juan River. It includes parts of Bloomfield and Navajo Nation residents.
It's one of the few San Juan County elections in which Democrat voters outnumber Republicans. Of the 10,299 voters in the division, 4,877 are Democrat and 3,231 are Republicans, San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes said.
McDaniel said he's not deterred that only about 30 percent of the registered voters in his race are Republicans.
"I don't know if I can make up for it. I can just treat people with respect," he said.
For Reed and McDaniel, this is their first attempt at running for office.
Both candidates were born and raised in San Juan County and left to attend college. McDaniel attended New Mexico State University where he earned a degree in police science. Reed earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and a master's degree from Arizona State University. Her degrees are in social work.
McDaniel has had a long career in law enforcement. He was a Farmington police officer for nine years and rose to the rank of corporal.
After leaving Farmington police he worked for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office for 20 years. In the early 2000s, he briefly retired from the sheriff's office and worked as a middle school teacher until he returned to the office in 2003 and worked there until he retired when he was appointed as a magistrate judge.
He said he wants to continue to work as judge because he has a strong work ethic, likes to help people and is a good judge of character.
"After 30 years of police work, a lot of cops get sour on people and that didn't happen to me," he said.
Reed said her interest in local politics was spurred by watching her grandfather speak at Navajo chapter house meetings when she was a young girl.
Her interest in a magistrate judge position started when she worked for two years for Mothers Against Drunk Driving as a court monitor. She sat through DWI trials in magistrate, municipal and district court and frequently met and discussed cases with attorneys on both sides as well as judges.
Her work with MADD gave her insight into the many ways judges can punish and rehabilitate drunken drivers. Her experience showed her the importance of getting to know the defendant before handing down punishment, she said.
Both candidates spoke well of their counterpart and said San Juan County voters have a good decision to make.
"He has knowledge after a 30-year-career in law enforcement and as a social worker I come from the side of helping people every day," Reed said. "People have a good choice."