The Suffolk Conservative executive committee named Republican state State Sen. Phil Boyle as their candidate for county sheriff Sunday, bypassing three-term Conservative incumbent Vincent DeMarco, whose testimony last year helped convict the minor party’s ex-leader, Edward Walsh, on federal corruption charges.
About three dozen executive committee members voted unanimously for Boyle of Bay Shore, a 22-year Albany veteran who has no direct law enforcement experience.
“To me it’s a new challenge,” said Boyle, citing his experience as chairman of the Senate’s heroin and opioid addiction task force. Boyle also noted that as a longtime member of the codes committee in both the Assembly and the Senate, he has years of experience dealing with all of New York State’s criminal justice laws.
Should he be elected, Boyle also vowed, “There will be no politics in the sheriff’s office.”
Last year, Walsh, a corrections lieutenant, was convicted of illegally taking $200,000 in pay for time when he was golfing, gambling or politicking.
Until now, Boyle had not officially announced as a candidate and earlier declined to comment about the race, but he was screened by the minor party a week ago. Four other GOP contenders, all with law enforcement backgrounds, were also screened, including Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook) and Suffolk Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).
After the vote, Boyle showed up at the American Legion Hall in Islip, thanked Conservatives for their backing and signed papers to accept the party’s nomination. Two executive committee members, party secretary Michael Torres, a close Walsh ally, and Walsh’s wife, Patricia, who works as an $80,000-a-year aide to Boyle, recused themselves from the vote.
“He did a great job at the screening,” said Frank Tinari, the Suffolk Conservative chairman. “He’s intelligent, works hard and has managerial skills needed for someone who’s at the top” of the sheriff’s office. “We wanted to give him an early start so he can go forward.”
The party leader said the committee offered DeMarco two chances to be screened, but he did not appear.
DeMarco launched his own campaign for re-election with a $130-a-head fundraiser Thursday night. Party sources say he has also been interviewed for a U.S. Marshal’s Office job with the Trump administration. DeMarco did not mention the potential federal appointment at the fundraiser and repeatedly said he intends to run.
“There are rumors around, but we don’t know what he wants to do,” Tinari said.
DeMarco told the 100 supporters he may face “a few little battles” ahead but added he intends to “win the war.” DeMarco said he would not attend this weekend’s screening because his father is in the hospital. He did not return calls Sunday night to comment on the committee’s choice
As a Conservative Party member, DeMarco can still run in the minor party’s primary, but running as a challenger could make it more difficult to get a major party backing for re-election, even though he has run with Republican and Democratic cross-endorsements in past years.
Suffolk Democratic leader Richard Schaffer and Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle, in the past, have expressed support for DeMarco. Schaffer said he still backs DeMarco but has a “great relationship” with Boyle, whom he called a “terrific public servant.” LaValle did not return calls for comment.
While major parties have expressed interest in doing a cross-endorsement deal with Conservatives for both sheriff and district attorney, Tinari said his party is dealing with each race on its own. “It’s just one position, and we’ll take the others as they come up,’ he said.