Mixed Election Night Results For Pro-Enforcement Sheriffs
By David Jaroslav | November 15, 2018
The November 6th midterm election saw several county sheriffs who stood for local cooperation with immigration enforcement fall to opponents who support sanctuary policies, a story that some of the media are trying to portray as a trend and a rejection of the Trump Administration. In particular, some counties that have 287(g) cooperative agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) faced strong and explicit opposition to that program. But other races saw pro-enforcement policies continue to be embraced.
The following counties saw pro-enforcement sheriffs defeated by pro-sanctuary opponents, sanctuary-supporting sheriffs holding off pro-enforcement challengers, or something similar:
The Bad News
- Anne Arundel County, Maryland: unlike most participating counties, including all other Maryland counties, its 287(g) agreement is not with the sheriff but with the county executive. Democrat challenger Steuart Pittman defeated incumbent Republican County Executive Steve Schuh, and control of the county council also changed hands from Republican to Democrat. Therefore, 287(g) may be in danger there.
- Cheshire County, New Hampshire: incumbent Sheriff Eli Rivera (D) has made Cheshire into a sanctuary county since 2012, not honoring detainers, inquiring about status, or notifying ICE. Opponent Earl Nelson (R) has repeatedly criticized these policies, and unsuccessfully challenged Rivera in 2014 and 2016. Rivera has defeated Nelson again, 56-41.5 percent.
- Dona Ana County, New Mexico: incumbent Sheriff Enrique “Kiki” Vigil lost the Democratic primary in June. Both general election candidates wanted to maintain federal Stonegarden grant funding, but Kim Stewart (D) was for less cooperation with federal authorities while former sheriff Todd Garrison (R) was for more. Stewart won by 56.48-43.52 percent.
- McKenzie County, North Dakota: incumbent Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger has been a longtime advocate for local cooperation with ICE, and was endorsed by former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but was defeated by challenger Matthew Johansen, 60.89-38.72 percent.
- Ulster County, New York: incumbent Democrat Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum hasn’t signed up for 287(g), but he essentially cooperates with ICE to the fullest extent possible without doing so. His opponent Juan Figueroa, also a Democrat, advocated for sanctuary policies such as not notifying ICE of “minor” offenses. Figueroa defeated Van Blarcum by a little over 4000 votes.
- Wake County, North Carolina: Donnie Harrison (R) has been sheriff since 2002 and strongly supported the county remaining in 287(g), while opponent Gerald Baker (D) campaigned on eliminating it. Baker defeated Harrison, 55-45 percent.
- Washington County, Maryland: Sheriff Douglas Mullendore (D) opposes the county entering 287(g), while Republican challenger Brian Albert said he would sign up for it. Mullendore appears to have been re-elected by a 5.6-point margin.
The Good News
In Maryland, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, both of whose counties are in 287(g), and who were at President Trump’s public-safety round table with sheriffs in September, were re-elected over challengers who’d been repeatedly critical of the program. In addition, pro-immigration enforcement Sheriff Mike Lewis was also re-elected.
In California, Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes (R) ran for sheriff promising to maintain retiring Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ stance of cooperating with ICE to the maximum extent possible despite the state’s sanctuary law, SB 54. His opponent Duke Nguyen (D) favored more sanctuary policies, particularly ending public posting of anticipated release dates for inmates. With all precincts reporting, Barnes handily defeated Nguyen, 57.1-42.9 percent.
In Florida, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister (R), who was appointed by Governor Rick Scott in 2017 when former Sheriff David Gee retired, has been supportive of cooperation with ICE and was one of the 17 Florida sheriffs who signed the Board Operating Agreement (BOA) with them. His opponent Scott Pruitt (D) said he would “definitely” withdraw from the BOA, but Chronister has now been elected to a full four-year term in his own right, apparently beating Pruitt 55-45 percent.
And in Nevada, sheriffs were elected in both of the state’s most populous counties, Clark and Washoe, who support continuing to work with ICE. In the case of incumbent Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, that means the roughly 4,000 police officers and corrections officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department staying in that agency’s 287(g) agreement. While for Washoe County, despite two Democrats facing off, it means pro-enforcement candidate Darin Balaam defeating explicitly anti-287(g) rival Heidi Howe, 54.22-45.78 percent, to succeed pro-enforcement Sheriff Chuck Allen, who retired.
Still To Be Determined
In Hennepin County—the most populous county in Minnesota, of which Minneapolis is the county seat—incumbent Sheriff Rich Stanek trails challenger David Hutchinson by 2,340 votes out of “nearly 530,000 cast” in unofficial results, a margin of approximately 0.44 percent. Stanek does not honor detainers, but otherwise has attempted to cooperate with ICE as much as possible in his 12 years as sheriff. Hutchinson, by contrast, has promised more sweeping sanctuary policies, such as not asking about people’s immigration status. While Hutchinson has claimed victory, and media outlets such as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune have already taken to referring to him as “sheriff elect,” Stanek has not conceded.
And in Los Angeles County, California, incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell (I) works with ICE when possible and actively opposed the state’s sanctuary law, while his opponent Alex Villanueva (D) ran on strengthening sanctuary policies and portrayed McDonnell as a puppet of the Trump Administration. Media outlets called the race for McDonnell on election night but had to retract, yet Villanueva now leads by only 335 votes in a race still “too close to call.”