Jeff Gildersleeve on Wednesday conceded the hotly contested Republican primary for Saratoga County sheriff to Michael Zurlo.
A still-unofficial count that now includes absentee ballots opened by the county Board of Elections on Tuesday and Wednesday gave Zurlo, a former sheriff’s investigator, a 6,542-6,001 victory in the race to replace retiring sheriff James D. Bowen.
Gildersleeve congratulated Zurlo but didn’t specifically endorse him.
“As of today, my campaign for sheriff has ended,” Gildersleeve said in a statement. “I will be watching with great interest to see that the Sheriff’s Department of tomorrow performs at the high level that residents of Saratoga County deserve.”
Gildersleeve, a retired state police investigator from Ballston Lake, had hung on to hope the absentee ballots would favor him, though he was trailing by 480 votes immediately after the Sept. 10 primary.
Zurlo, of Stillwater, who spent 34 years with the Sheriff’s Department under Bowen, claimed victory on primary night and did so again Tuesday, as his lead grew during the absentee ballot count.
“I am thankful for the confidence Republican voters gave me to lead as their candidate for Saratoga County sheriff,” he said Wednesday, with the vote count completed. “Voters in this county care deeply about what their law enforcement officials are going to do to keep their neighborhoods, main streets, county roads, schools, children and families safe.”
But he conceded many voters felt strongly about the state’s new SAFE Act gun control measures. Opposing the law and saying he wouldn’t actively enforce it was a prominent part of Gildersleeve’s campaign platform.
Zurlo said he will work with state legislators to have the law repealed or changed.
“Clearly, many voters care about how the governor’s so-called SAFE Act will impact them. I will not use the sheriff’s office to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said.
“I am working closely with legislators like senators [Kathy] Marchione and [Hugh] Farley and Assemblymen [Dan] Stec and [James] Tedisco on repealing this ill-conceived law,” Zurlo said. “I welcome the input of Second Amendment enthusiasts around our county to get this accomplished.”
Zurlo now goes into the Nov. 5 general election to face Phil Lindsey, the Democratic candidate, and independent Jason Longton.
The Republican enrollment advantage in Saratoga County makes Zurlo the overwhelming favorite.