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Mayor-Elect of New Mexico Town Banned from City Hall

  • Everardo Holguin, 75, stands with a poster supporting his candidate for mayor Tuesday March. 6, 2012, in Sunland Park, New Mexico. The city of 14,000 inhabitants has undergone a turbulent mayoral campaign with candidate Gerardo Hernandez involved in a sex scandal and Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas facing charges of extorting his rival and a city official. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2012 file photo, Sunland Park, N.M. mayoral candidate Gerardo Hernandez speaks in front of city hall in Las Cruces, N.M. Some residents, and apparently some non-residents, have already cast early ballots in the race that has seen Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Salinas and two other city workers arrested and jailed on charges they tried to force Hernandez, from the race by threatening to release a secretly recorded video of him getting a lap dance. Dona Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando tried unsuccessfully to get a judge to delay the election after an investigation by Secretary of State Dianna Duran found several irregularities, including evidence that six people who live across the state line in El Paso had voted. (AP Photo/The Las Cruces Sun-News, Robin Zielinski, File)

  • Priscilla Morales, secretary for former Sunland Park city councilor Dario Hernandez, is handcuffed and escorted into a police car by New Mexico State Police officer Raul Robles on Tuesday just as polls were closing in Sunland Park, N.M. Morales is the fourth arrest in conection with alleged voter fraud. (AP PHOTO/Las Cruces Sun-News, Robin Zielinski)

Last week Daniel Salinas was banned indefinitely from Sunland Park City Hall.

Now, he's been elected mayor.

Salinas, who was arrested on extortion charges and released last week on $50,000 cash bond, was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s election, garnering 637 votes while his opponents, Gerardo Hernández and Jose L. Hernández (of no relation to each other) collected 553 votes and 66 votes, respectively.

The 28-year-old is charged with extortion – trying to force Gerardo Hernández from the mayoral race with a secretly recorded video of him getting a topless lap dance.

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Officials from the secretary of state's office and the Dona Ana County district attorney's office, who tried unsuccessfully to halt the election, were reviewing the outcome of the voting. For now, the plan is that Salinas will be sworn in by telephone Friday because of his persona-non-grata status.

Meanwhile, Gerardo Hernández vowed to find a lawyer and launch a legal challenge.

Even if the vote count is made official by Friday, former state elections director Daniel Ivey Soto said it doesn't mean Salinas will be sworn in.

"It depends on what is revealed by the canvass and if a challenge or a recount is demanded by someone," he said, predicting a flurry of expedited legal filings.

Salinas has been charged with extortion and other charges. Salinas has denied guilt.

The election on Tuesday was to replace former mayor Martin Resendiz, who resigned last year after admitting to signing contracts while drunk.

Some residents said they were just fed up with the town's notoriously corrupt politics.

"That pack of ingrates, they should have their necks wringed and be thrown into the fire," 80-year-old Emilia Stevenson said.

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But other residents defended Salinas, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.

"Upon learning of Salinas' win, a rowdy crowd of supporters cheered in the dark parking lot at the City Hall complex,” the newspaper said. “Many backers have been undaunted by the allegations.”

"I never had a doubt he would be a winner," said Estella Garcia, 28, of Sunland Park, according to the newspaper.

Hernández said results from the voting on Tuesday, which was supervised by police and elections officials, showed he won by a 2-to-1 margin. But early voting and absentee ballots -- many of which came in before the secretary of state launched her probe -- had him losing by a 3-to-1 margin, he said.

"In the back of my mind, I was expecting this to happen," Hernández said. "I knew there always existed the possibility of a problem with the early votes and absentee."

Officials with the district attorney's office did not return calls Wednesday, but Assistant District Attorney Scot Key said Tuesday that prosecutors continued to investigate voting irregularities and had filed a motion seeking possession of questionable absentee ballots.

Prosecutors last week took the unusual step of seeking to have the election delayed, citing a state report alleging widespread voter fraud, including at least six residents from nearby El Paso already casting ballots in the race and questions about absentee ballots.

Two workers have been arrested on voting fraud charges.

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

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