Five Men Vying For Santa Cruz County Sheriff

Estrada Undecided On Running For 8th Term

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Santa Cruz Sheriff Tony Estrada [Photo courtesy Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office]

Five candidates have officially thrown their hats in the ring to become the first new sheriff in Santa Cruz County in nearly 30 years. The winner will head a staff of more than 100 employees on a $12 million budget in a key county along the U.S. – Mexico border south of Tucson.

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Keith Barth was joined at his campaign kickoff by Alyssa Cordova, widow of Nogales police officer Jesus Cordova who was killed in the line of duty last year. (From left to right: Pima County Deputy Kevin Kubitsky, Alyssa Cordova, and Keith Barth. Photo by Terri Jo Neff)

Last week Keith D. Barth formally kicked off his campaign to replace Sheriff Tony Estrada with a gathering of supporters in Nogales. Among those backing Barth, a former Santa Cruz County justice of the peace, at the event was Alyssa Cordova, widow of Nogales police officer Jesus Cordova who was killed in the line of duty last year.

Barth, who previously served as a Cochise County Sheriff’s deputy, was elected to the justice court in 2007, a position he held until December 2018 when the county board eliminated his court, citing budgetary concerns. He currently serves as the contracted town magistrate for Huachuca City.

County election documents show three other Democrats have filed initial candidate papers. The others are David Ruiz, most recently with the U.S. Border Patrol; Rafael Corrales, retired Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputy; and David Hathaway, a retired DEA agent who supervised the agency’s Nogales office.

Hathaway challenged Estrada in the 2016 Democratic primary, coming within 383 votes of unseating the longtime sheriff. To date there is no declared candidate on the Republican party ticket, although former Customs & Border Protection official Jose “Joe” Agosttini is running as an Independent.

Estrada has yet to officially announce whether he plans to contend for an eighth term. He was first sworn in as Santa Cruz County’s top law enforcement official in January 1993 and will be 77-years-old when his term expires at the end of 2020.

If Estrada runs, he will face questions about an investigation by the state auditor’s office, his disputes with the county board, and county-wide budget issues brought on by the underutilization of a state-of-the-art jail built in 2011.

Last fall, Estrada was notified of an Arizona Auditor General investigation related to employees claiming extra hours as compensation for performing duties beyond their job description. Estrada approved the practice, which provided extra pay for some employees to help train new deputies and supervise patrol shifts, when the employees held positions that didn’t require that type of work.

In addition, the same county board that abolished Barth’s justice of the peace court also eliminated a sheriff’s lieutenant position. The action irked Estrada, who said the county board had no right to “meddle” in how he manages his office.

The county is also reeling from debt incurred to build a jail in Nogales that holds 372 inmates. The expectation was that other agencies would pay to house their detainees there, but county records show the average daily head count has been far less.

Some residents contend Estrada’s public criticisms of the Trump administration have contributed to the problem.



  1. I support David Hathaway for Sheriff. While all the candidates have some or many qualification Mr. Hathaway fulfills all the qualifications and is a long time member of our community. I know Mr. Hathaway personally and know his reputation when he worked for DEA. After working 30 years with AZ DPS, many in this county I feel Mr. Hathaway is the best qualified.

    • Hathaway Family’s Santa Cruz County history (including Sonoita, Elgin+++ in east county – currently considering whether to secede from SCC to join Cochise) is absolutely fascinating. There are even Hathaways in historic Black Oak Cemetery out in Canelo!

  2. Thank you Sheriff Estrada for your service to Santa Cruz county from the entire Loftus family.

  3. I have lived in Santa Cruz County for more than 20 years. I am grateful for Sheriff Estrada’s service all these years. I am especially grateful that Sheriff Estrada is willing to speak publicly about what is RIGHT rather than accepting what is being pushed by corporate controlled government interests that violates human rights.

  4. Mr Estrada, thank you for your service to the County. In my opinion you are too biased in your politics as of late so it’s time to go home and enjoy retirement…enough is enough!

  5. It always disturbs me that anyone in a law enforcement LEADERSHIP position identifies with one particular political affiliation.

    • … to his great credit, Judge Barth’s Campaign Kick-Off celebration was attended by a true cross-section of SCC residents … by party affiliation, by ethnicity, by occupation & by economic status. As our new Sheriff Mr. Barth will Indeed dispense Law & Order fairly, equally & regardless of affiliations.

      • I believe he will. Have known him for many years. He made a fine officer and JP. He did his job without prejudice in any way.

        • Barth was a Cochise County Deputy for 17 years. He was fully DEMOTED and strongly encouraged to resign for 6 charges of MISCONDUCT. Earlier this year he was issued a Letter of Reprimand for 6 charges of MISCONDUCT from the Commission on Judicial Conduct. All documents are on Eastern Santa Cruz County AZ Politics page on Facebook.

      • Cooperation/back-forth with Nogales, Sonora, is and always has been a big part of the position. Is Judge/Magistrate (Huachuca City, CC) Barth bilingual? We know that the rest of the candidates are….to be truly ‘ethnicity’ sensitive in the most populous part of Santa Cruz County – Spanish will be a must….not necessarily the case in Cochise County/Huachuca City. All candidates will have opportunity to deal with this and other issues at upcoming bi-lingual candidate forums in Nogales/Rio Rico.

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