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Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

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Politically, Sheriff Manny Gonzales’ public persona may be a bit confusing. In 2020 he aligned himself squarely with an already-unpopular President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr. The president even tweeted his support for the sheriff, saying, “Thank you to Sheriff Gonzales of Bernalillo County, N.M. Appreciate your partnership to help make your county safe.” 

Gonzales has always claimed to be a Democrat and has always run his campaigns under that umbrella. The Paper. spoke with former Bernalillo County sheriff and one-time congressional candidate Darren White about what it would take for Manny Gonzales to win the mayoral race. 

The Paper.: Do you think Republicans in Albuquerque would support Manny Gonzales as a mayoral candidate?

Darren White: “There is no question that there is clearly a segment of the Republican Party that supports the sheriff. I get calls from GOP members all the time that say, “I’m a Republican, and I’m supporting Manny.” It’s because he seemed to be a supporter of Trump’s policies in the past few years and with former Attorney General Bill Bar. The perception is that he was aligned with the president. Anyone running against him will paint him as “Trump’s Favorite Candidate,” and that’s such a bad place to be in. It’s very hard to overcome that, I know. I was painted as “George Bush’s Favorite Candidate” when I ran for Congress against now-Senator Martin Heinrich, and I knew the minute I saw it I was done. 

Will that translate into support in a mayoral support from Republicans? Probably from some. The problem for Manny—I’m sure he’s getting requests to run as a Republican. If I were advising him, I would say don’t do that. I think Manny is a Democrat. I’ve known him a long time. While he may be more right of center, I think at his core he’s still a Democrat.”

Given your experience as a former sheriff and congressional candidate, what do you see as challenges to his potential campaign?

The thing that could be trouble for Manny is if there’s a known Republican [in the race], because he needs all the crossover votes he can get. He also needs to peel away Democrat votes from Tim Keller if he runs. That’s a tough spot to be in and creates a big challenge. You essentially need to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans at the same time in order to have a fighting chance. He can’t have any missteps. He must be absolutely perfect in order to win.

What would Manny’s strengths be as a candidate?

Manny’s strength is his stance on fighting crime. That is Manny’s platform; it has to be. He needs to be the candidate that fights crime, because right now, the mayor has proven he’s not able to do that. People need to feel safe. And if they don’t, they will vote for the candidate who makes them feel safe.

People have to be so fed up from both sides of the aisle that they’re willing to give someone else a chance.

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