Fulton County Sheriff Giardino announces bid for third term

Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino stand in front of his office and sheriff patrol cars in Johnstown

FILE - Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino

FULTON COUNTY – Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino has announced he will seek reelection this year for his third term in the position.

“I want to thank the residents of Fulton County who have supported me as District Attorney, County Judge and now for 7 years as Sheriff,” Giardino said in a series of written answers provided for this story. “The public has given me the honor and privilege of serving Fulton County where I was born and raised.”

Giardino, a 64-year-old Republican, first ran for countywide office in 1991. He is the only person in New York state history to have served as a county district attorney, county judge and county sheriff, having won eight consecutive countywide elections.

He has also typically won by a wide margin. In his first bid for sheriff, he defeated state court officer Darren Smith by receiving 81% of the votes, beating Smith 7,098-1,602 in the general election. In 2019, he defeated former Gloversville Police Chief Donald VanDeusen III in the Republican  primary with 79% of the vote, winning 2,794 to 728. During the 2019 general election Giardino, running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines received 81% of the votes cast with 1,520, compared to six write-in votes, seven voided votes and 330 votes with no candidate chosen.

On Tuesday, Giardino said he has already received the Fulton County Republican Party endorsement and he’s giving his pitch for the newly formed Fulton County Conservative Party on Thursday. In previous elections in Fulton County a petition sent to the New York state Conservative Party was required because there was no local committee.

Giardino said he can’t seek the endorsement of the New York state Independence Party because it lost its permanent ballot status in 2020, and he hasn’t decided whether or not to create his own independent party, something often done by candidates for countywide races to provide a choice for voters during the general election in Fulton County, where the Republicanprimary is often the only significant contest.

“As of now, I’m not creating an independent party to run on,” Giardino said.

Giardino said he’s proud of his record over his first eight years as sheriff.

“When I first ran I said I would restore the boat and snowmobile patrols, which we’ve done with public support,” he said. “We have several individuals, businesses and organizations that have supported all our special units including the K-9, especially the Pine Tree Rifle Club, the annual antique car and truck show and the Ruthann Coons, Broadalbin American Legion and VFW K-9 walk. We’ve dramatically increased training for our staff. We are pursuing accreditation as an agency.”

During Giardino’s second term in office he achieved national notoriety in 2020 for his strong stand against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s policy of prohibiting indoor gatherings during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season because of COVID-19 restrictions. By his count, he appeared on Fox News two dozen times, including the Tucker Carlson show and “The Ingraham Angle” hosted by Laura Ingraham, as well appearances as CNN, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and conservative radio host Glenn Beck’s show.

But during that time he also came under criticism from some who argued that his position on social gathering put politics over public safety with respect to the spread of COVID-19 before a vaccine had become available.

Giardino said he acknowledges that some of the criticism he has received regarding COVID-19 has been fair.

“But I also received a lot of support from around the country, as well,” he said.

Giardino has been criticized at times for being too politically aligned with the Fulton County Deputy Sheriffs Police Benevolent Association union, many of whose members are voters in the Republican primary.

In the fall of 2021 Giardino publically released his proposal to cut the number of years of service required for his county’s sheriff’s deputies to retire with a full pension to 20, down from the then current requirement of 25, at an approximate cost to county taxpayers of $880,000.

When he released the proposal Giardino said since 2016 his department had lost 17 deputies to transfers to other law enforcement agencies, including the city police departments in Johnstown, Gloversville and Amsterdam, all of which have 20-year pension plans.

But the Fulton County Board of Supervisors did not approve the pension proposal. Northampton Supervisor James Groff, himself a retired county sheriff’s deputy and former PBA president, said at the time that he wasn’t against shortening the number of years required for deputies to collect a pension, but he thinks changing the pension benefits should be a part of the county’s collective bargaining process and it was inappropriate for Giardino to have made his proposal to the public.

“The sheriff is supposed to be a co-employer with the Board, but apparently he’s not. He’s negotiating for the union,” Groff said. “That’s basically what’s happening here.”

Giardino said one of the reasons he has chosen to seek a 9th term of office is to continue his efforts to rebuild the county sheriff’s department to the 39-member roster it once had before cuts before his tenure reduced the number.

“With the approval of the supervisors, we’ve restored 3 positions out of the 13 lost over the 10 years before I was elected,” he said. “The Board also approved an additional civil clerk and in the first years approved three specialty positions.”

Giardino said he sometimes does have the same views as the deputies union.

“I’d say I have the same interests as the union in retaining people and have competitive wages and benefits,” he said. “It’s a waste of money to train people for other agencies and see them leave in two to three years.”

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