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Democratic chief Richard Schaffer gambled on Errol Toulon Jr.

Larry Zacarese, left, and Errol Toulon Jr.

Larry Zacarese, left, and Errol Toulon Jr. Credit: Newsday

Democrat Errol Toulon Jr. may be declared the winner of the Suffolk County sheriff’s race this week, but a party poll six weeks before the election had him down by a 24-point margin.

Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said Toulon, who only entered the race in mid-September, was behind Republican Larry Zacarese 49 percent to 25 percent with 26 percent undecided as of the Sept. 26 poll.

Nonetheless, Schaffer felt neither contender was widely known at the time. And he did not believe the poll took into account the minor Conservative and Independence parties that backed Toulon, or the potential of Democrat Timothy Sini’s coattails in the district attorney race.

Schaffer said he decided to seek $300,000 in loans to get Toulon’s message out — although he admits he never mentioned the poll results to those who agreed to loan money. “I told them it would be close, but I thought he would win by 3,500 votes,” he said.

Schaffer said it was worth the gamble, noting that Democrats rarely have a chance to get Conservative backing for a countywide law enforcement post.

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