By Adriana M. Chávez / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 09/22/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT
EL PASO -- George Rodriguez Stoltz, the Republican candidate for El Paso County sheriff, will be the first to admit he's the underdog.
Stoltz will face Democratic candidate Richard Wiles, a retired police chief, in the general election Nov. 4.
Stoltz, 42, has spent the last 18 months in Iraq as a contracted police adviser, and returned to El Paso on Sept. 14. Stoltz said that since then, he has hit the ground running to make strides in his campaign, which carries the motto "international experience for an international community."
"I have to," Stoltz said. "It's been an uphill battle to get things started with my campaign. It's hard to campaign when you're thousands of miles away."
Stoltz said he decided to run for sheriff because he tired of seeing "crime and corruption going out of control."
While he was in Iraq, Stoltz said, he would keep up with his hometown by visiting the Web sites of media outlets such as the El Paso Times and reading stories on the FBI's public corruption investigation and the area's crime trends.
"I went from (hearing) Americans saying Iraq was corrupt to seeing graffiti (in El Paso) going out of control and community leaders under investigation," Stoltz said. "I believe in my heart that El Paso deserves better, especially our outlying areas."
Although Stoltz may still be unfamiliar to many county residents, Wiles said he knows Stoltz very well. Stoltz was an El Paso police officer for 18 years before he resigned to work as a civilian
contractor in Iraq. Wiles said he was unable to grant Stoltz a leave of absence because it isn't commonly approved in the department.
Before becoming an officer, Stoltz was a U.S Marine who graduated from Ysleta High School in 1984. Stoltz said his family has roots in the Lower Valley, where he still lives with his wife, Nancy, and three children -- Nicole, 20; George Anthony, 17; and George Eric, 15. His two sons attend Socorro High School, where Stoltz is a member of the football team's booster club.
George Stoltz said he shares views similar to late Sheriff Leo Samaniego's on enforcing immigration laws. Last year, Samaniego was criticized for allowing deputies to check on the immigration status of drivers during traffic checkpoints.
Wiles said he doesn't believe local law enforcement should enforce federal immigration laws, and added that immigration laws should be enforced by officers specifically trained in immigration law.
Stoltz said he is against consolidating aspects of the Sheriff's Office and the Police Department and implementing DIMS, or District Attorney's Information Management System, which allows crime suspects to be jailed before appearing in front of a magistrate judge. Wiles said he supports both those issues.
Sammy Carrejo, who is involved with Stoltz's campaign as a publicist, said he decided to support Stoltz because of his position on DIMS and other issues Wiles has supported.
Stoltz "is doing this for the safety of El Paso. He's not worried about making his next career move like his opponent is," Carrejo said. "Wiles is not the type of person we need."
Wiles said he questions Stoltz's campaign motto, and is concerned that Stoltz is comparing Iraq to El Paso.
"I don't think Iraq can compare to El Paso. It's best to have actual experience here on an international border," Wiles said.
Eastsider Ann Marie Giron said she supports Wiles' campaign because she believes he's the most qualified based on his past experience as police chief.
"All citizens (have) benefited from his ability to manage not only a police department, but theÊadditional responsibilities therein, which affected our lives daily, such as budgetary constraints andÊthe development of aÊmore trusting relationship between citizens and the Police Department," Giron said. "These are the criteria that are relevant, not party-affiliation, gender, raceÊor ethnicity."
Adriana M. Chávez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org;546-6117.
Name: Richard Wiles
Experience: Retired El Paso police chief. Worked for 27 years for the city of El Paso, initially as a firefighter and then in various jobs in the Police Department. Retired in December.
Education: Master's in criminal justice from Sul Ross State, where he was named outstanding criminal justice graduate student. Bachelor's in criminal justice from the UTEP. Graduate of Andress High School.
Web site: www.wilesforepcounty.com.
Name: George Rodriguez Stoltz
Experience: Eighteen years experience as an El Paso police officer. Last assignment was with department's Gang Task Force. Resigned from the department to serve 18 months in Iraq as a contracted international police adviser. Former U.S. Marine.
Education: Attended Sul Ross State, where he was a cornerback on the school's football team, from 1985 to 1987. Studied criminal justice at El Paso Community College and American Military University, an online university.
Web site: www.georgestoltz.com.