Suspected cartel hit men shot and killed eight people in three separate incidents in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan, officials said.

The victims included Abel Estrada Avila, former police chief of the town of Vista Hermosa, who was killed along with another man inside his home by a group of men armed with assault rifles, the state Attorney General's Office said Wednesday.

Authorities said another group of hit men wielding AR-15 rifles and handguns killed another man outside his home in that same municipality.

In another incident, hooded men shot and killed three people traveling in an SUV in a wooded area near the state capital of Morelia.

Finally, the state AG's office said two suspected cartel enforcers were killed in a shootout pitting members of the Los Caballeros Templarios and La Familia Michoacana drug gangs in the town of Turicato, located in the southern part of the state.

State police are investigating the homicides, all of which occurred on Wednesday.

The wave of violence comes three days after voters in that state went to the polls to elect their governor, 112 mayors and 40 state legislators.

Preliminary results indicate that the main opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was the big winner.

Michoacan, coveted by drug cartels for its Pacific coastline and home to clandestine marijuana and opium poppy fields, is a key entry point for South American cocaine, as well as chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs at laboratories tucked away in the mountains.

Conflicts pitting the cartels against each other and the security forces have claimed nearly 50,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and militarized the struggle against the drug mobs.