There’s no favorite in the race for Suffolk Sheriff, a least according to the contenders: Both see themselves as underdogs.
Democrat Errol Toulon Jr., a former New York City deputy corrections commissioner, says he’s the underdog because he entered the race just last month, after Democrats had gone through two other contenders before seeking him out.
Republican primary winner Larry Zacarese, assistant chief of the Stony Brook University police, claims the underdog mantle because a political deal also gave Toulon the Conservative and Independence Party lines.
Yet both are convinced they will win.
“Voters sent a message in the primary that they are awake and tired of political bosses making backroom deals, trading jobs like they are playing cards at a table,” said Zacarese, who upset Republican State Sen. Phil Boyle in the GOP primary.
Toulon noted that Zacarese made law enforcement experience a key issue in his primary campaign, but that Zacarese conceded in a TV debate he lacked corrections experience.
Toulon said he believes his record as a 25 year corrections professional trumps Zacarese’s resume as a university police official and former New York City police sergeant.
“I think we should keep the focus on experience . . .,” said Toulon. “When I walk in Jan. 1, I won’t need any person to tell me how the institution is running when I enter a housing or visitation area . . . This is no place for on-the-job training.’
The Suffolk sheriff’s office has a $169.5 million budget and 1,387 correction officers, deputy sheriffs and support staff who run the county jails in Yaphank and Riverhead, transport prisoners to court, enforce court orders and administer pistol permits on the East End.
Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, a Conservative who in the past won with major and minor party cross-endorsements, was forced out of the race when his own minor party refused to back him for re-election early this year.
The party’s move came after DeMarco was a key witness for federal prosecutors against ex-Suffolk Conservative chairman Edward Walsh, a corrections lieutenant, who was convicted of golfing, gambling and politicking at times he should have been working. Walsh is serving a two-year sentence.
Conservatives backed Boyle, which pressured Republicans into making him their candidate. Zacarese defeated him, making Boyle’s lack of direct law enforcement experience and employment of Walsh’s wife major campaign issues.
Zacarese believes his law enforcement and administrative experience as well as his training as an attorney have prepared him for the sheriff’s post.
Zacarese also has questioned Toulon’s interest in the sheriff’s job in light of his late entry to the contest.
“If he wanted to be sheriff, he should have showed up 11 months ago,” Zacarese said.
He said Toulon’s background is limited to corrections while the sheriff’s office also has 300 deputies who “do law enforcement every day.”
Zacarese said that while Toulon was city deputy corrections commissioner, incidents of inmate violence “increased exponentially.”
Toulon, who headed applicant investigation and the intelligence bureau, said he had no role in controlling prisoner violence. He said he only gathered intelligence and investigated incidents after they occurred.
Toulon said he faced pressure to underreport incidents of violence between inmates.
“I was asked to misrepresent the numbers and that was something I refused to do,” said Toulon, who resigned in January. He has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming discrimination. City corrections officials had no comment.
Democrats have attacked Zacarese in three mailings as “dangerously inexperienced,” saying Stony Brook University got a “D- rating” in safety in a survey on the website american-school-search.com.
Zacarese, who helps run a staff of 70 sworn officers, criticized the website for comparing the 25,000-student university with nine small Long Island schools including the Long Island Beauty School. He said statistics listed by the federal Department of Education show the university is “remarkably safe.”
Also in the race is Peter Krauss, 46, of West Islip, a Republican running on the Libertarian line. The retired New York City police sergeant said he entered the race to “end the culture of corruption” in Suffolk County government.
Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, said the party will spend about $350,000 on Toulon, including for ads on social media and 11 mailings aimed at about 84,000 voters.
Zacarese, who spent $193,244 in the primary, said that early investment will pay off now that the entire GOP is backing him. Since the primary he has spent $67,579 and has $47,182 on hand.
To stretch his funds, Zacarese has held a telephone town hall meeting and is planning another, which will reach out to more than 80,000 homes. He also said he has received an in-kind donation of 5,000 pizza boxes with his name and face emblazoned on them. “We’re thinking outside the box,” he said.
Education/Career: Zacarese, of Kings Park, also has the Reform Party ballot line. He has Bachelor’s and Masters degrees from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a law degree from Touro Law School. He is assistant police chief of the Stony Brook University police. In 1998, he joined the NYPD, rising to rank of sergeant. He has served as a Holbrook volunteer fireman since 1992. Zacarese is married with four children.
ERROL TOULON JR
Education/career: Toulon, of Lake Grove, also has the Conservative and Independence Party lines. He is a graduate of Kingsborough Community College, and has a Bachelor’s degree from Monroe College and an MBA and PhD from Dowling College. He owns a security consulting firm. Toulon was New York City deputy corrections commissioner from 2014-2017, and worked as a corrections officer in the department for 22 years. He was an assistant Suffolk deputy county executive from 2012 to 2014. Toulon is married with two sons.
PETER J. KRAUSS
Education/career: Krauss, of West Islip, is a registered Republican who is running on the Libertarian line. Associate degree in graphic communication from Farmingdale State College. Became a police officer with the NYPD in 1993, was promoted to sergeant in 2003 and retired in 2013. Works at Pace University as a security coordinator. He is married with six children.