Michael Zurlo was leading Jeff Gildersleeve by 407 votes late Tuesday night, with 88 percent of the 196 districts reporting, in the Republican primary race for Saratoga County sheriff.
Zurlo declared victory in the race, according to The Post-Star’s news partner WNYT NewsChannel 13, and he posted a tweet on the social media site Twitter around midnight that said, “Thank you to all our supporters from across Saratoga County.” The tweet had the hashtag “#nominee.”
Gildersleeve said the race was too close to call.
“He can declare victory, but the final counts aren’t in yet,” Gildersleeve said.
Attempts to reach Zurlo were unsuccessful.
Zurlo’s lead over Gildersleeve fluctuated with results throughout the night and shrunk to about 3 points, with 6,206 ballots — or 51 percent — cast for him, while Gildersleeve’s 5,799 votes gave him 48 percent. There were 20 votes cast for write-in candidates.
With Zurlo’s lead, it appeared the 537 absentee ballots returned to the county by Tuesday could bridge the gap. A total of 987 were mailed out.
Gildersleeve, who was running for office for the first time, said he wasn’t surprised the results were close.
“What we did is take a complete grass-roots campaign against an entrenched party machine, and we brought it right to a tie. I think that’s impressive,” Gildersleeve said. “The volunteers I had were phenomenal. The effort they put into it, the people helping me, it was just incredible.”
Zurlo will have the Independence Party line for the Nov. 5 general election, but if Gildersleeve loses the primary, he will be off the ballot.
Whoever wins will face off against Democratic and Conservative candidate and South Glens Falls police officer Phil Lindsey and independent Jason Longton in the general election.
Zurlo and Gildersleeve both have extensive law enforcement experience and are retired from the agencies with which they spent the bulk of their careers.
Both campaigned on updating technology at the Sheriff’s Office. They both also used technology in their campaigns, with websites and a presence on social media sites.
Gildersleeve, 56, of Ballston Lake, works part-time for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office as an investigator. He was endorsed by Warren County Sheriff Bud York and the unions that represent the Warren County sheriff’s officers, former candidate for governor Carl Paladino and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which is known for having filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the NY SAFE Act on constitutional grounds.
Enforcement of the NY SAFE Act became a campaign issue as Gildersleeve said he wouldn’t enforce the relatively new gun control measure.
“I think it was made into more of an issue than it needed to be,” Gildersleeve said. “There were so many other issues that needed to be addressed within the sheriff’s office. My position has never changed (on the SAFE Act) and his varied throughout the race.”
Before Gildersleeve joined the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, he retired from a 26-year career with the State Police where he rose to the rank of senior investigator. He also is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The campaign was heated at times this summer with stolen signs and accusations of misrepresentation of campaign positions.
Saratoga County Sheriff James Bowen, who is retiring after about four decades, endorsed Zurlo, a former Saratoga County sheriff’s lieutenant.
Zurlo, 59, of Stillwater, was endorsed by the county Republican Committee, many Republican lawmakers and luminaries, law enforcement union Council No. 82 and the union that represents county correction officers.
He was with the Sheriff’s Office for 32 years before retiring and serving as the town justice in Stillwater.
He also campaigned partly on having a good relationship with other law enforcement agencies in Saratoga County.