Candidates for San Juan County sheriff file second campaign finance reports

Dan Schwartz
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Local attorneys, law enforcement officers and energy companies have contributed to two candidates running for San Juan County sheriff, and one candidate says he is not accepting any donations.

The primary election is June 3, and it will decide the county's next sheriff because no Democrats are running against the three Republican candidates.

Ken Christesen, who is running for re-election, has received the most campaign donations, collecting more than $18,000, according to the second round of finance reports filed May 12. Victor Titus and Steve Murphy, owners of the Farmington-based Titus & Murphy Law Firm, each donated $1,750 to Christesen's campaign, according the reports.

Mike Kovacs, who is retiring this week from his position as Bloomfield's police chief, has collected $11,625, according to his finance report. Sheriff's office Capt. Shane Utley, who is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Christesen and other defendants, donated $75 to Kovacs' campaign, according to the reports. .

Also running for the position is Daniel Goldberg, owner of the New Mexico Fugitive Apprehension Bureau, which is not a state agency. Goldberg has provided all of his own campaign funds, which have totaled almost $11,000, according to his second finance report.

"I'm not going to be beholden to anybody," he said.

Significant donations

Christesen said donors have been contributing to his campaign because they want a "fair" and "honest" sheriff.

"The best way for me to campaign is to run on my record — not the negative mudslinging," he said. "People want honest people in office, and my record is clear on that."

At least four of Christesen's deputies have donated to his campaign, according to the reports. And Tommy Bolack, who has been appointed a special deputy and is the owner of B-Square Ranch near Farmington, gave $2,400 to the Christesen's race.

Donors are limited to giving candidates no more than $2,400 for the primary and $2,400 for the general elections, said Ken Ortiz, spokesman for the New Mexico Secretary of State.

He said there is no clause in the Campaign Reporting Act that prohibits employees from donating to their employer's campaign. County Deputy Attorney Doug Echols said the county also does not have rules against that.

Other significant donations to Christesen's campaign, according to the reports, were $2,000 from Blue Jet Inc. and $1,000 from Andrea Corporation, both of which are Farmington-based energy companies. SunRay Park & Casino also donated $1,000, and Christesen's campaign secretary, Dana Anderson, gave the same sum, according to the reports.

Kovacs said supporters who donate to his campaign believe he is the best candidate. No one, he said, has approached him offering support because they are angry with Christesen.

"Everybody on my platform has backed me because they believe I would be a good sheriff," he said.

Aside from Utley's donation, Neil Haws and Michael Davidson have also contributed to Kovacs' campaign, according to the reports. Haws, the director of the Region II Narcotics Task Force in San Juan County, is the husband of a plaintiff in the harassment-based lawsuit filed against Christesen. Davidson, a former San Juan County sheriff, wrote a letter to the editor published on May 9 in The Daily Times criticizing Christesen.

Haws donated $150, and Davidson contributed $100, according to the report.

Kovacs said the two men's contributions were not related to their lawsuit against Christesen.

Among his significant campaign contributions, Farmington Mobile Home Service & Repair Inc. donated $1,500; the Farmington-based Rig Equipment & Supply Co. contributed $1,000; L&W Drilling of Denver donated $1,000; and JA Drake Well Service, Inc. gave $1,000, according to the reports.

Goldberg has contributed $10,945.75 of his own money to his campaign, according to his finance reports. His first finance report dated April 15 shows he gave his campaign $8,252.30 of his own funds, and the second finance report shows he contributed $2,693.45. He said he issues funds as they are needed.

Promoting their campaigns

Christesen said he's promoted his campaign mostly through fliers and radio ads and by walking door-to-door.

He has spent more than $5,500 on address and mail brochures, almost $4,400 on yard signs, about $3,200 in airtime on the radio, nearly $2,800 in print brochures and about $800 for 300 bumper stickers, according to the reports.

Christesen said he has had problems with signs getting torn up or ripped down.

"I know all the candidates have this kind of problem every campaign season," he said, refusing to speculate on who might be behind the vandalism.

Goldberg said he has had similar problems. Within a week, all 75 of the signs he posted were ripped up, he said. Initially, he blamed the wind. But, Goldberg said, the wind doesn't chose which signs to topple.

"I think it's supporters of one of the competitors," he said.

Goldberg has spent more than $5,200 on bumper stickers and banners that vehicles driving around the county tout, according to the reports. He has also spent about $715 in materials to build signs, about $580 for already-made signs, $538 for signs to be stuck in yards, about $1,600 for T-shirts and $300 to attend the March 27 campaign fundraiser in Farmington for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Jeb Bush, Florida's former governor.

Goldberg said he also walks door-to-door to promote his campaign.

Kovacs has spent more than $5,000 on signs and more than $1,100 on radio ads, according to his report. He has also spent $300 on window paintings and about $25 on Facebook ads, according to his reports.

He said he reaches voters via social media, radio ads and signs.

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