FIRST ON FOX: The former sheriff of New Mexico’s most populous county has announced his decision to switch political parties and compete for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Describing himself as a “man of strong convictions and values,” Manuel Gonzales, who served as the sheriff of Bernalillo County for roughly 13 years, told Fox News Digital his decision to enter the Senate race came as a result of the Democratic Party moving too “far left” on issues that mean the most to him.
“I’m a law and order and fiscally responsible family man that cares about his community,” Gonzales said. “My whole career in life has been surrounded by service. My concerns are that of the [Democratic] Party. The party that I was in has gone far left in terms of their ideologies towards families and law and order. I can no longer become complicit in their values because I don’t believe that they align with mine.”
Gonzales, a lifelong Democrat who gained national recognition for his refusal to enforce stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, said he believes his decision to run as a Republican will provide him with more opportunities to pick up support in the race and bring “positive changes” to the state overall.
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Manuel Gonzales, who served as the sheriff of Bernalillo County for roughly 13 years, told Fox News Digital his decision to enter the Senate race came as a result of the Democratic Party moving too “far left” on issues that mean the most to him. (Manuel Gonzales)
From inflation to crime, Gonzales said he’s looking to tackle issues that have hindered progress in the state head on.
Gonzales, who’s looking to take a hands-on approach to problems if he’s elected, said he will prioritize “fighting for jobs” in New Mexico and hone in on certain “energy initiatives” and resources the state has to offer.
“The security and safety of the people throughout the country has been compromised,” said Gonzalez, whose public service career has been marked by repeated efforts to rid New Mexico of crime.
Gonzales, whose career in law enforcement spans nearly 30 years, said a troubling reality he faces is that officers in New Mexico “don’t feel supported.”
A proponent of qualified immunity for officers, Gonzales said he hopes to welcome more officers to the state and “get behind efforts to support” law enforcement officials so he can be “a strong voice and advocate for them.”
Gonzales, a newcomer to the Republican Party, also touted his ability to work across the aisle to get things done for those he hopes to represent on a federal level.
“I would definitely be a huge advocate and work collaboratively with both sides of the aisle to get things accomplished instead of continually pointing fingers and blaming [others] like this current administration and this current senator that sits in office right now,” he said, referencing the Biden administration and incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
Gonzales, who’s looking to take a hands-on approach to problems if he’s elected, said he will prioritize “fighting for jobs” in New Mexico and hone in on certain “energy initiatives” and resources the state has to offer. (Manuel Gonzales)
Taking further aim at Heinrich, who has represented New Mexico in the Senate since 2013 and is running for re-election to his post in the upper chamber, Gonzales accused the “career politician” of being a “carpetbagger” who came to the state and has been “comfortable and unchallenged” thus far.
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“I want to be the person that has the opportunity in November to challenge him and unseat him so things can start moving,” Gonzales said of Heinrich. “I really believe things are idle here, and I think when people become complacent and comfortable, I think it’s time for them to go home.”
Amid several law enforcement issues that arose during his time as sheriff of Bernalillo County, Gonzales said Heinrich’s office was silent.
“I did not see any effort or anybody from [Heinrich’s] office reach out to support any initiatives we were doing,” he said.
Gonzales has been at odds with several elected Democrats from across the state for some time, and took heat from them following his 2020 visit to the nation’s capital to meet with then-President Donald Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr.
Gonzales is shown alongside then-Attorney General William Barr during a Bernalillo County event. (Manuel Gonzales)
Party affiliation won’t prevent Gonzales from doing the work that needs to be done in Washington on behalf of his constituents, he said.
“I understand that I represent the people and not a party when I get elected,” he said. “I can stand on my own two feet. I am my own person, and I’m a person that is very reasonable. I’m also a person that is fair. I have the best interest of everybody at heart. Politics don’t play into my decisions when it comes to serving people.”
“I want to get things done. I want to help people, and I want to serve them because that’s what I’ve been called to do,” Gonzales added.
Amid his stint leading the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, Gonzales sought to serve as the Mayor of Albuquerque in 2021. He lost that election, however, to Tim Keller, a Democrat who previously served as the New Mexico State auditor.
Last fall, Gonzales and former Laguna Police Chief Rudy Mora were identified in a federal indictment filed in Maryland that accused the pair of participating in an illegal weapons scheme in the state. Prosecutors said Gonzales and Mora signed false documents to help gun dealers illegally obtain machine guns, according to Source New Mexico, but neither of the men have been charged with a crime.
Gonzales, who described himself as a “fiscally responsible family man that cares about his community,” is shown with his family. (Manuel Gonzales)
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Discussing the matter outlined in federal documents filed last October, Gonzales said the effort is “politically motivated” and that he believes he will be “exonerated.”
“I followed the law, and I’ll continue to follow the law,” he said. “I would never breach anything for the trust of the people. After this case has been adjudicated and said and done, I believe my good name will be exonerated.”
The primary election is slated to take place on June 4, 2024. The general election will take place on Nov. 4, 2024.