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FARMINGTON — Ken Christesen won the Republican primary Tuesday night in his bid for reelection as the sheriff and faces no Democratic challenger in the November general election.

"This has been a long campaign," he said, "and I'm happy to get it over with."

Because no Democrats challenged the three Republican contestants, Christesen likely will take the office in November barring a successful write-in candidacy. But a write-in candidate taking sheriff in the general election is unlikely, said San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes.

Christesen appears to be on his way to a second four-year term with nearly 60 percent of the 7,085 votes cast in the primary. According to unofficial results, he received 4,227 votes, Mike Kovacs got 2,501 votes and about 35 percent of the total, and Daniel Goldberg took 357 votes, which is about 5 percent of the total.

Heather Taylor hands her ballot to Tim Slade on Tuesday after voting in the local primary at the Farmington Museum. Taylor’s children from left are,
Heather Taylor hands her ballot to Tim Slade on Tuesday after voting in the local primary at the Farmington Museum. Taylor's children from left are, Clara Taylor, Drew Taylor and Robbie Taylor. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

"It feels good, a little vindication," Christesen said of his large lead, "even through some of the politics of it."

He said his campaign was "draining."

About three hours before most of the unofficial results were counted, Christesen waited with more than 30 supporters sitting at round tables and standing in circles in the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in Farmington. Everyone was watching the projector image stretched over the far wall. Christesen said he was nervous.

At a corner table, Jack Richards stood watching the screen. He was a sergeant in the Sheriff's Office when Christesen became a volunteer deputy in 1989, and he said he supervised the then "rookie."

On the screen Richards was watching, Christesen had almost 60 percent of the vote.

"He'll win," Richards said, "by a large margin. You could put money on it. He's always done me a good job. There ain't no question about his ethics or his work ability."

Voters who elected Christesen to his second term as sheriff on Tuesday said they chose the candidate because he deters crime, stretches the office's budget, and personally shows that he cares for the community.

Former Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Kovacs speaks during an interview on Tuesday at the Sullivan Road Fire Department District 9 station in Bloomfield.
Former Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Kovacs speaks during an interview on Tuesday at the Sullivan Road Fire Department District 9 station in Bloomfield. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

"I really haven't followed the other candidates, so I don't know what their thoughts are," said Cindy Morris, after she walked from the Farmington Museum polling place. She had just voted for Christesen. "I just like him."

The Farmington resident said Christesen spoke in her Women Against Crime class, and she shares the same view of crime that he does. Both, she said, want the San Juan County Detention Center to be a place where criminals do not want to return.

Chris Ledek, who also had just cast his vote, said he's heard good and bad news about Christesen, "but it seems the good things outweigh the bad."

Ledek spoke as he was standing next to his wife outside the museum after both Farmington residents had voted for Christesen. He said he has friends who are deputies, and they speak well of Christesen.

Sheriff candidate Daniel Goldberg on Tuesday gives rides for voters at the Farmington Museum.
Sheriff candidate Daniel Goldberg on Tuesday gives rides for voters at the Farmington Museum. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

"He treats them well," said Liz Ledek, his wife, and the deputies told her he is a "good guy."

Back in the lodge before the large screen — with everyone still watching and Christesen pacing the floor — Richards said the criticism his candidate received has been unfounded and the recently filed lawsuit claiming retaliation and harassment is baseless.

"You run into this stuff in any election," he said.

Early in the race, there were allegations that Kovacs, who recently retired from his position as chief of the Bloomfield Police Department, and Christesen were using ticket quotas, a patrol management system nationally discouraged because many law enforcement officials say it reduces an officer's discretion. Both candidates denied the charges.

Late in the race, The Daily Times discovered in a background check it conducted of all three candidates that Goldberg had been arrested in the 1990s on two felonies charges, but one was dropped and the other reduced to a misdemeanor.

All three candidates have said they stand by the second amendment and would not enforce federal gun laws that they believe threaten to take away resident's firearms.

Efforts to reach Kovacs after votes were tallied were unsuccessful.

But before polls closed, Kovacs said that Tuesday felt like any Tuesday. He spent that day golfing with his son and pulling weeds and working to lay a fence on his in-law's land.

He had said he wouldn't be surprised if he lost because he only started his campaign 90 days ago. Christesen, he believes, began his campaign much earlier.

Goldberg said now that a sheriff has been elected, he needs support.

"I think that we need to get in back of him and hopefully his shortcomings will be corrected," Goldberg said, "and if not, then I think he'll be facing opposition in a couple years again."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.