Former Salt Lake County sheriff, a Democrat, endorses Republican Justin Hoyal for the seat

Bucking party lines, former Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, a Democrat, has endorsed Republican candidate Justin Hoyal for the job.

Winder, who stepped down mid-term in June 2017 to fill the top law enforcement job in Moab, has been critical of his replacement, Sheriff Rosie Rivera, in the past. But until now, he has declined to endorse her opponent in November’s election.

In a prepared statement provided to The Deseret News on Tuesday, Winder called Hoyal a “dedicated public servant” and said he’s “the right guy for this job.”

"Everybody wants community policing,” Winder said. “Everybody wants 'smart on crime.' So here's a person that lives and breathes it. That's what we're doing here, and I hope that both Democrats and Republicans would put aside those banners for one race and elect an individual who will do a very good job for everyone.”

Winder did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Hoyal told The Salt Lake Tribune that he sees Winder’s endorsement as “kind of a big deal,” demonstrating that he’s willing and able to work across party lines.

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Unified Police Dept. Lt. Justin Hoyal announces he will run for county sheriff as a Republican Thursday Nov. 30.

“I truly believe that we have to work together,” he said. “For me, it’s really not about whether you’re a Republican or Democrat — it’s about public safety, and I think that’s what it comes down to.”

Hoyal worked closely with Winder during his time at the Unified Police Department, serving as a public information officer under the former sheriff and then as his chief deputy.

That’s why Rivera said Winder’s endorsement didn’t come as a surprise.

“They have been friends for many, many years and you know, I’m sure [Winder] would like to have his friend continue on with the direction he was going,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday. “I’m going in a different direction. I have a different vision for the office and, you know, that’s up to him. He’s the one that quit and left, you know?”

At a news conference this summer, Winder blasted Rivera for a lack of leadership in jumping in to stop an exodus of cities from Unified Police Department — a criticism Hoyal has echoed.

But Rivera says she’s taken steps to address concerns from the department’s partner cities. And since she and Winder haven’t spoken since he left town for Moab, Rivera said he may be unaware of strides she says have been made in his absence.

“All I know is that when he quit, I stepped up to the plate and I’m just asking for a chance to continue doing what we’re doing — you know, repairing a lot of the things that had not been addressed,” she said.