Residents of Sunland Park, N.M., just elected a brand new mayor — too bad he’s not allowed in City Hall because of some pending extortion charges over an alleged plot to blackmail his opponent with the help of a topless dancer.
On Tuesday, Daniel Salinas unofficially won the mayoral race against Gerardo Hernandez with 51 percent of the vote, with a margin of 84 votes.
Hernandez says he plans to challenge the results since most of Salinas’ votes came from absentee ballots, and there have been concerns that some of those ballots were fraudulent. Four absentee ballots have already been thrown out after they were revealed to have been fraudulently cast by Texans.
“We knew this was going to be a tough race, combating voter fraud and extortion. It’s hard to believe that someone who has attempted to sway the vote by intimidation and supported by illegal voter fraud is elected,” Hernandez said, according to NMPolitics.net. “Where the secretary of state and the district attorney were involved, I was ahead 3 to 1.”
But a more pressing concern for Salinas is that he is currently facing extortion charges for allegedly trying to blackmail Hernandez by sending a stripper to his office and secretly videotaping the encounter.
Hernandez claims that Salinas hired a topless woman to come into his office and dance for him — “as any gentleman would know, it was a lap dance,” Hernandez said of the incident — secretly filmed it, then tried to use the tape to blackmail Hernandez into dropping out of the race.
Salinas was arrested in late February — along with City Manager Jaime Aguilera — and charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, evidence tampering and conspiracy to commit evidence tampering, all third- or fourth-degree felonies. If convicted, Salinas and Aguilera each face up to 7.5 years in prison.
Even if he holds on to his win, Salinas will have to get around the rather tricky fact that a condition of his release from prison is that he cannot set foot on city property or have contact with city officials who might become witnesses in the case, the Las Cruces Sun News reports.
Salinas, Hernandez and one other candidate had run to replace Mayor Martin Resindiz,
after Resindiz admitted to signing $1 million in contracts with a local architecture firm after “a good two and a half, three hours” of drinking. Salinas, who was also named by the firm in its lawsuit against the city and admitted to also being drunk at the time the contracts were signed, had been acting as mayor of Sunland Park.