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Suffolk County sheriff primary reeks of the political swamp

Lawrence Zacarese and Phil Boyle, candidates in the

Lawrence Zacarese and Phil Boyle, candidates in the Republican primary for Suffolk County sheriff.

Calling all Republican voters in Suffolk County:

If you want to drain the swamp at home, we’re with you. And you can start Tuesday with the GOP primary for county sheriff, a race that represents everything that stinks about politics in Suffolk.

Your vote is an opportunity to take a stand against party bosses who rig races. Against cross-endorsement scams that rob all voters of real choices. Against backroom deals in which political leaders divide the spoils of victory, rewarding operatives with patronage jobs regardless of merit.

This editorial is not a predictor of whom we would endorse in the general election. However, if you believe in honest and competitive elections and want to ensure that Suffolk voters have one in November, then vote for Lawrence Zacarese for sheriff in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Zacarese, the deputy chief of the Stony Brook University police department, is impeccably qualified. He has good ideas for the office and the county jail he would oversee. So does the party’s designated candidate, State Sen. Phil Boyle. Our recommendation is simply because a Boyle win Tuesday pretty much guarantees him victory in November thanks to multiparty shenanigans. That deprives voters of the meaningful discussion of the sheriff’s office and its role in local law enforcement that should occur over the next eight weeks.

The circumstances that set up Boyle’s candidacy reek, and should offend anyone who believes in elections of integrity and openness. Here’s why:

Boyle, a registered Republican, also is on the Conservative and Independence party ballot lines in November. The Conservative Party’s former county leader was former corrections Lt. Edward Walsh, who was convicted by federal prosecutors for conducting party business, including playing golf, while he was supposed to be working at the jail. The evidence was supplied by current Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.

In revenge, Walsh’s party abandoned DeMarco, a registered Conservative, and selected Boyle. So we now have the specter of someone in federal prison attempting to run the local county jail, dictating who gets hired and demoted. The fact that Walsh’s wife works for Boyle, who has a history of hiring relatives of political cronies, does not inspire confidence in his independence, despite his protestations.

Democratic county leader Rich Schaffer has said DeMarco was a good sheriff and even considered giving him the nomination, but the job-hungry Conservatives threatened to withhold their minor-party line for Democratic candidates for judgeships. Schaffer also has praised Boyle, and once said he was open to giving Boyle the Democratic line. That still might happen. As of now, the Democratic candidate is attorney Stuart Besen, who is not actively campaigning; it’s more like he’s in the witness protection program. After the primary, Schaffer could choose Besen to run for a state judgeship. That would allow Boyle to run for sheriff virtually unopposed. Unless he loses the GOP primary to Zacarese. With Zacarese on the GOP line, at least voters would get a real choice.

Then there is a practical consideration: If it’s important to you that Republicans maintain their razor-thin control of the State Senate, vote for Zacarese. If Boyle loses, he retains his seat at least for the year left on his term. A Boyle victory would open his seat, and a Democrat could win a special election, as Christine Pellegrino did in May in the reliably GOP Assembly district that overlaps Boyle’s Senate seat.

Don’t let this stink bomb pass you by. Vote for Lawrence Zacarese for sheriff in this primary. Open the windows, shine a light, and give every voter in Suffolk a choice on Election Day.