Michael Zurlo held a solid lead late Tuesday night in the race to be the Republican nominee for Saratoga County sheriff.
Zurlo, of Stillwater, amassed 6,206 votes and Jeff Gildersleeve, of Ballston, received 5,799 votes, with about 89 percent of the county’s election districts reporting.
All eyes in the county were on this race because the enrollment advantage in the county heavily favors Republicans and the party’s nominee would have a strong edge in the general election against Conservative Phil Lindsey, who also has the Democratic line, and independent Jason Longton.
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This fall will be the first time in more than four decades that the name of long-serving Sheriff James D. Bowen will not be in the ballot, as he is handing in his star.
Regardless of how the final Republican votes broke Tuesday night, Zurlo was guaranteed a spot on the Independence line for the general election.
The race between Gildersleeve and Zurlo became heated in the waning days of summer, as enforcement of the SAFE Act became a contentious difference between the two candidates. Zurlo downplayed the importance of the sweeping gun-control legislation, which was championed earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying it wasn’t a central concern of voters. He has promised to enforce the law if elected.
Gildersleeve argued the law was unconstitutional and promised not to enforce it. Noting he would control how his resources would be deployed, Gildersleeve said Tuesday, “Rather than chasing down law-abiding citizens and checking to see how many rounds they might have in their magazines, I think what I would rather do is focus on the more serious crimes.”
Both candidates pledged to modernize the department, which has been faulted by critics as being outdated, as with its habit of faxing out news releases. Zurlo plans to make the department more accessible through social media, like Twitter and Facebook, and will let people track sex offenders and check out a list of the county’s most wanted criminals on the department’s website. Gildersleeve offered his own plan to modernize the department, which included public email accounts and a video arraignment system.
Both candidates focused on outreach to the county’s youth. Zurlo created a teen advisory committees to help identify issues among the county’s young people and to establish a line of communication between his office and young people. He also plans on having deputies on road patrol visit schools on a regular basis.
Zurlo’s background includes 36 years in law enforcement, including 32 years in the Sheriff’s Department, where he rose through the ranks from patrol deputy to supervisor of investigations before retiring in 2010.
Left to be counted are more than 530 absentee ballots submitted by Republican voters in the county. The number of absentee votes will likely increase as they trickle in over the next few days, as almost 990 ballots were issued to Republican voters in the county. Traditionally absentee ballots follow the results from Election Day, which decreases the chances of a Gildersleeve comeback.
• Malta town Supervisor Paul Sausville appeared late Tuesday to have held off a challenge from Town Board member Peter Klotz for the Republican nomination, holding a 626=472 edge with 9 of 12 districts reporting.
• Declaring victory just a few minutes after the polls closed was Saratoga Springs Democratic mayoral candidate Joanne Yepsen, who was running for the Independence party nomination against a write-in campaign by Republican Shauna Sutton. Yepsen, who was endorsed by the city’s Independence Party Committee, could gain an edge from the additional line, which basically provided the difference for Scott Johnson’s mayoral victory in 2011.
In the general election, Yepsen will also have the Democratic and Working Families lines, while Sutton has the Conservative and Republican lines.
• Also winning the Independence Party nomination in Saratoga Springs was Democrat John Franck, the incumbent Accounts Commissioner, who held off a write-in bid from Republican John Arpei.
• In Galway, the Republican primary for highway superintendent will be decided by paper ballots, as David Costanzo was losing by only a two-vote margin to Kenneth Boerenko.