Rick Brand Portrait of Newsday reporter Rick Brand taken on

Rick Brand is a longtime Newsday reporter who writes about politics and government on Long Island.

Larry Zacarese, assistant chief of the Stony Brook University police, has launched his Republican primary challenge for Suffolk County sheriff and “guaranteed” that he will be on the November ballot, even if he has to gather petitions to gain a separate ballot line.

Zacarese, 42, of Kings Park, who is challenging GOP designee Phil Boyle in a Sept. 12 primary, said he also is seeking support from the Working Families Party, which will interview him Thursday, as well as the Reform Party, headed by Curtis Sliwa.

Boyle, 55, a Republican state senator from Bay Shore, has not sought the Working Families line but is vying for the Reform Party line.

Zacarese said that if he does not receive the endorsement of those minor parties, he will circulate petitions to get on the ballot under the banner “Thin Blue Line,” or the “Law Enforcement” line . He needs at least 1,500 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

To get into the GOP primary, Zacarese needs a minimum of 2,000 signatures, and he said he has 100 volunteers to help him amass them.

Zacarese touts his 25 years of law enforcement experience, including 12 years with the NYPD where he rose to the rank of sergeant, and his time with the university police department. He also has experience in emergency medical services.

“There is no question, the people of Suffolk County will have a choice,” Zacarese said. “This is not the time to put a politician in the sheriff’s office . . . The people of Suffolk County want a qualified professional leader . . . It is a law enforcement post and I am the only law enforcement candidate.”

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Democratic sheriff candidate Dan Caroleo also is a former New York City police officer.

Boyle, who is in his third term in the senate, has no direct law enforcement experience, but he touts his role on the Senate’s opioid task force and his seat on the Senate codes committee, which deals with all state criminal laws. Boyle is also a local volunteer firefighter.

Zacarese expressed concern that Boyle sought the Conservative Party’s endorsement for sheriff before gaining the support of the Republican Party.

Zacarese also noted that the wife of ex-Suffolk Conservative Chairman Edward Walsh, who was convicted last year on federal corruption charges, could end up working for the sheriff’s office if Boyle were elected. Patricia Walsh is currently as an $80,000-a-year caseworker in Boyle’s local Senate office.

Boyle said her employment has nothing to do with her husband. “She’s the best caseworker I’ve seen in 25 years of service,” he said. “She happens to be married to a political leader.”

Should he become sheriff, Boyle said he “would not bring Patricia Walsh with him to work in the sheriff’s office,” but would recommend that his successor keep her in the Senate office.

With David M. Schwartz