Voter turnout rate in county slightly higher this year

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FARMINGTON — Undersheriff Shane Ferrari emphasized his 20 years of law enforcement experience throughout his campaign for the Republican nomination for San Juan County sheriff.

That message seemed to reach voters, as they overwhelmingly voted for Ferrari in the primary election Tuesday.

Ferrari received 8,019 votes, and Bolack received 1,297 votes.

“I believe San Juan County wants an experienced lawman to be their sheriff,” Ferrari said Tuesday evening while watching results come in.

Ferrari and his supporters gathered at the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters to wait for the election results.

Ferrari was running against Farmington businessman Tommy Bolack, who ran on a promise to change the agency and be tough on crime.

The race developed into one of the more high-profile campaigns in San Juan County. Ferrari launched his campaign earlier than most candidates, choosing to announce his candidacy during the San Juan County Fair in August, while Bolack spent lavishly on his campaign and made numerous claims alleging a spike in crime in the county.

The early and absentee ballot results began coming in shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m., and Ferrari raced to an early lead he never relinquished.

"I'm pretty well done," Bolack said at about 9 p.m. of the returns that saw him trailing by a wide margin. "I don't plan on ever running for another office. At least I gave it a try."

Ferrari said the primary election was a challenge because he was up against an opponent with a lot of money to spend. He said that pushed him to work 10 times as hard.

The most recent campaign finance reports showed Bolack having spent $247,000 on the race.

Ferrari likely will face former Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Kovacs, who has been campaigning as an independent candidate, in the November election. Independent and minor-party candidates will file candidacy paperwork on June 28.

Kovacs previously ran for sheriff in 2014, but was defeated by current Sheriff Ken Christesen. Christesen has reached term limits and is not running for re-election.

Ferrari, who did not draw a Democratic opponent, said he is looking forward to the general election.

“It’s a whole new election,” he said.

He said he will be campaigning to expand his voter base, including reaching out to people on Navajo Nation as well as Democrats, Libertarians and independent voters.

Voter turnout rate up this year

When San Juan County Clerk Tanya Shelby compared the numbers from the 2014 primary to this year’s election, she said the voter turnout was higher this year.

She said in 2014 there were 2,984 early votes cast, and this year 4,442 people voted early.

“We had a line at (the voting convenience center at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park) when we started,” Shelby said.

She said early voting started slow but picked up as the election approached.

According to information from the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office website, about 27 percent of eligible San Juan County voters cast ballots on Tuesday.

The local voter turnout was slightly less than the overall state turnout. According to the SOS website, voter turnout statewide was about 28 percent.

The 2014 primary election had a slightly higher number of voters show up to the polls. According to county data, 14,706 people voted in the primary election in 2014. This year, 14,388 people voted. However, the number of eligible voters is smaller this year than in 2014. In 2014, there were 74,841 eligible voters. This year there were 52,737.

Voter turnout was approximately 20 percent in 2014.

The 2016 primary election voter turnout was approximately 21 percent, according to The Daily Times archives.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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