David Hathaway, an experienced lawman who offered the county’s Democratic voters both level-headed policy proposals and strident opposition to the use of face masks, bested three rivals in the party’s primary race for Santa Cruz County sheriff.
Hathaway had 2,603 votes, or 39.7 percent of the total, according to unofficial results released by the County Elections Office on Thursday evening after all ballots were counted. He was followed by Rafael "Rafita" Corrales with 2,197 votes, or 33.5 percent.
Next came Keith Barth with 1,206 votes (18.4 percent) and David Ruiz with 519 votes (7.9 percent).
Corrales won more votes than Hathaway on ballots cast in person at the polls on Tuesday, 387 to 337, according to the unofficial results. However, Hathaway won 2,258 early votes to 1,799 for Corrales.
(Corrales also led Hatahway in provisional votes, 11 to 8.)
Hathaway will next face Independent contenders Jose “Joe” Agosttini and Andrew Ibarra in the general election, to be decided Nov. 3.
The winner of the general election will take over in 2021 for longtime Sheriff Antonio Estrada, who is retiring after seven terms in office.
Hathaway is the former head of the local DEA office who is making his second run for the sheriff’s office. The 61-year-old Rio Rico resident lost to Estrada as the only challenger in the 2016 Democratic primary. He campaigned early and often in this election cycle, spending a little more than $60,000 on his election efforts through June 30, the most in the field. (Corrales, the runner-up, reported spending $7,920 during the same period.)
During an interview in mid June, Hathaway told the NI that he would stand up to fear-mongering about the border, and said he wanted to make the sheriff’s office “a fun place to work again” for patrol deputies. Speaking at a candidate forum on June 28 in Sonoita, he said he wanted to expand the sheriff’s volunteer program, form a civilian advisory board and create a major case squad.
However, he alienated some voters when, during the Sonoita forum, he revealed his distaste for the county’s face mask mandate and voiced alarmist health concerns as reasons for people not to wear them. Even so, he managed to win enough Democratic support in a county with Arizona’s highest rates of COVID-19 infection and test positivity to secure the primary.
And while Hathaway initially said he would refrain from public campaigning due to his aversion to using a face mask, he began to appear in public wearing a mask in the days leading up to the primary.
Corrales, 49, is a 24-year veteran of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, where he served as a detention officer, deputy sheriff and sergeant. He lives in Rico Rico.
Barth, a 58-year-old resident of Sonoita, recently served as the elected justice of the peace at Sonoita Justice Court, after having previously worked as the Patagonia town marshal.
A 51-year-old Nogalian, Ruiz is a retired Border Patrol agent and the brother of County Supervisor Manuel Ruiz.
Hathaway’s competitors in the general election include one candidate with extensive law enforcement experience, and another with none.
Agosttini, a 63-year-old Rio Rican, retired in 2017 from a 30-plus-year career with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its predecessor, the U.S. Customs Service. He finished his CBP career as the agency’s assistant port director in Nogales.
However, Agosttini’s commitment to the campaign was called into question when he declined to participate in the candidate forum in Sonoita. It remains to be seen if he’ll now try to keep up with Hathaway, who has shown himself to be a relentless campaigner.
Ibarra, a resident of Rio Rico, is running for sheriff after failed bids in past years for county supervisor and U.S. Congress. Though he’s never been a law enforcement officer, he says his administrative experience sets him apart.
Still, he’s cagey about the exact nature of that experience, declining to answer questions about where he’s worked.