The Sheriff’s Office is a new challenge

The Sheriff’s Office is a new challenge

Sheriff Villanueva’s chances for second term dwindle as Luna’s lead holds strong

By Tom Hall

TUCSON, Ariz. – Former Sheriff Richard Allen Villanueva hasn’t gotten a chance to pitch for another term yet.

But he’s had ample time to chew on the matter.

Now, in his second term, he is facing a new challenge – the same challenge he helped create: Luna County’s lone sheriff’s office.

Luna County’s deputy sheriff, Carlos Lopez, has led the charge in bringing down the Sheriff’s Office.

Villanueva, a retired Tucson Police Department lieutenant who once had his eye on becoming the second sheriff in the county, is now being challenged by the one he helped build.

Lopez, who has emerged as the front runner in the race to succeed Villanueva, has a different view of who the sheriff should be.

“I don’t care who the sheriff is, I just want an honest, hardworking, fair and honorable sheriff,” said Lopez, who was hired by the sheriff’s office in 2005. “I know where the Sheriff’s Office went wrong and I want to fix it.”

Villanueva, who was first elected in 2006, didn’t see Lopez, a longtime friend and former colleague as a true rival. He didn’t believe the sheriff’s office had been “screwed” enough, and Lopez’s new view of the agency is reflected in his campaign message.

“I am the sheriff of the people of Luna County and will continue to provide a public safety sheriff, working with the sheriff deputies and others in the area to keep everyone safe and provide an honest public safety department,” Villanueva said in a prepared statement of his decision to run for re-election.

Lopez says he is confident he can win the seat – and soon.

In 2010, he defeated Mark Sperber in the primary, winning by more than 55 percent to Sperber’s 41 percent.

Lopez says at the outset, the race is not about Villanueva, but about what happens next

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