Sunland Park, N.M., mayoral candidate Gerardo Hernandez. (Robin Zielinski / Las Cruces…)
Voters in Sunland Park, N.M., are set to elect a mayor Tuesday, and oh, what a choice it is. They can pick Gerardo Hernandez, who was secretly recorded getting a lap dance in his office. Or they can choose Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Salinas, who was arrested on suspicion of trying to use the lap-dance video to force Hernandez out of the race.
So goes politics in the community on the border with Mexico, which is also being audited by the state. If signs of embezzlement are found, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has indicated that the state is prepared to take over the city’s finances, the Associated Press reported.
The mayoral mess started last month when Hernandez was interviewing a man who'd offered to help with his campaign. In a scene out of a bachelor party, the man turned on some music, and a woman who'd accompanied him shed her top and started to writhe on Hernandez.
"As any gentleman would know, it was a lap dance," Hernandez, who is married, told the AP.
What Hernandez apparently didn't know was that the dance was being recorded. But soon after, he reportedly told authorities, he was approached by a stranger -- armed with a still image from the video -- who threatened to release it if he didn’t drop out of the race.
Within days, Salinas and City Manager Jaime Aguilera were arrested on suspicion of extortion and other charges, which could send them to prison for up to seven and a half years, according to nmpolitics.net. They have pleaded not guilty in the case.
According to court papers, City Hall surveillance cameras showed Salinas entering Aguilera’s office with a laptop on Feb. 15. The same day, the alleged extortion video was downloaded onto Aguilera’s office computer, where editing software was used to extract a still image, the Albuquerque Journal said. On Feb. 16, Hernandez said, the unidentified blackmailer approached him.
Voters do have a third choice in the mayoral race: another man with the last name of Hernandez. But, according to nmpolitics.net, Jose Luis Hernandez has been dogged by allegations that he entered the race to confuse residents and siphon votes from Gerardo Hernandez.
In a recent interview with KFOX-14 in nearby El Paso, Texas, Jose Luis Hernandez admitted that he hadn't even told his mother, who lives in Sunland Park, about his mayoral bid. Outside her home is a sign supporting Salinas.
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