Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, facing a political primary battle after initiating the corruption investigation of former Conservative Party Chairman Edward Walsh, said Monday he won’t seek a fourth term in November.
DeMarco, a Conservative, has served 12 years in the countywide elected position as head of the Suffolk County jail system and sheriff’s deputies.
“I made promises to the public, I kept those promises. I demonstrated a commitment to people of Suffolk County,” DeMarco said in an interview. “When I first ran, I only intended to be here for 12 years. I’m sticking with that plan.”
DeMarco held a fundraiser in March for his re-election bid. But he said that “after speaking to my wife and evaluating some opportunities that are out there in front of me, we’ve decided it’s time to try something new and look at a new challenge.”
DeMarco confirmed he has interviewed with Republican President Donald Trump’s administration for a job in the U.S. Marshals Service, although he has not been offered a job. He also said he was looking at private sector opportunities.
DeMarco, 48, would have faced a contested re-election battle.
The Suffolk County Conservative Party, which includes former Walsh allies, have endorsed state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) for sheriff.
While DeMarco geared up for a primary fight, he would have needed 13 of 24 votes from the Republican executive committee to wage a GOP primary and get the Republican line. A Republican source said Conservative leaders threatened to withhold support for town candidates if the GOP executive committee allowed DeMarco to run a Republican primary against Boyle.
Suffolk Conservative Chairman Frank Tinari did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Walsh, a former sheriff’s lieutenant, served as the powerful Conservative Party leader until a federal jury convicted him on charges of collecting $200,000 in salary when he was golfing, gambling and politicking.
DeMarco testified at the trial last year that he had his investigators follow Walsh when he was supposed to be working at the county jail.
DeMarco said he brought the case to federal law enforcement after being rebuffed by District Attorney Thomas Spota.
“It was obviously much bigger than Ed Walsh. It was about political corruption here in the criminal justice system in Suffolk County. It’s not a secret that the District Attorney interfered with my investigation into Ed Walsh and apparently interfered with other investigations as well,” DeMarco said.
Spota spokesman Robert Clifford didn’t respond to a request for comment, but he has denied that Spota sought to protect Walsh.
DeMarco had support from Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer and Republican John Jay LaValle for re-election.
DeMarco said he was confident in his re-election chances if he had decided to run again.
“I’ve been involved in politics in this county for a long time. I knew there’d be some blowback from the Conservative Party,” he said. He called the current leadership “tainted. They’re all disciples of Ed Walsh, who’s been convicted and will be sentenced next month. And they said they want to continue his legacy, which is corruption.”
DeMarco said he would not support Boyle, who employs Walsh’s wife as an aide, because he has no direct law enforcement experience.
Boyle said, “If I’m fortunate enough to be elected sheriff of Suffolk County, I would like to build on Sheriff DeMarco’s impressive accomplishments” such as efforts to reduce the prison population.
DeMarco helped avert the need for a $300 million-plus “super jail” in Yaphank, which was originally mandated by the state when he first ran for office. DeMarco promoted alternative sentencing programs for some nonviolent offenders and minors. He said a youth diversion program dropped the recidivism rate to 22 percent for those who go through the program, compared to 70 percent for those who don’t.
Schaffer said he had committed to supporting him on the Democratic line. “I think he did a terrific job as sheriff since he was first elected in 2005 and I’m going to miss him.”
Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) credited DeMarco with working to investigate his own political party leader.
“He took down corruption in Suffolk County jail. What more could you ask for?” Browning said.