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Saratoga Sheriff race heats up after primary day

BALLSTON SPA -- The Saratoga County Sheriff's primary race remains up for grabs nearly 24 hours after the polls closed. So far, Michael Zurlo has a 407 vote lead over Jeff Gildersleeve. But election officials say they sent out nearly a thousand absentee ballots and not one has been counted yet.

Zurlo holds over 6,200 votes from primary day. Gildersleeve, pulled nearly 5,800. They're both finding out their campaigns aren't ending at the primary voting booth.

Zurlo claimed victory and believes any absentee ballots will not change the outcome, telling CBS6 he's "very confident."

Gildersleeve, on the other hand, is hoping he can bridge the gap. The race won't end until at least next Tuesday when absentee ballots will be counted in the primary race for Saratoga sheriff. Zurlo is talking like a winner. "I'm going to continue to start tomorrow and still meet residents of Saratoga County, let them know what I'm all about," he said.

Gildersleeve is planning to do the same thing. Over five hundred out of nine hundred absentee ballots had been returned to the county so far -- making it possible that Gildersleeve could edge out a win.

"We got here, let's see what happens -- grassroots effort, the people that came out to help me, unbelievable," Gildersleeve said.

Outgoing, long-time sheriff James Bowen threw his support to Zurlo, who has experience with the sheriff's office, and is not out of the race if he ends up losing the primary.

"I'm also on the independence line and i will be on that line in November," Zurlo said.

That experience is why Gildersleeve says his supporters came out in force. He is a retired trooper and current part-time Warren County Sheriff's Office investigator. This primary saw what both candidates considered was a high volume of voters.

"We were able to tap in to a little bit of dissatisfaction with the old style of getting things done," Gildersleeve said.

Whoever wins will go up against a Democratic and independent candidate come November. One key endorsement may have made the most significant difference in voter turnout and the ultimate decision.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association supported Gildersleeve, who says he will not enforce the SAFE Act.

Both Republican candidates have said they oppose and want to overturn the Governor's gun control law. Zurlo says he wants to take a "common sense" approach to the law -- only pursuing serious violators. There were bigger issues than that which gave him the lead, including "neighborhood safety -- they wanted to know what I was going to do for them, to protect them, our kids and our schools."

"I think a lot of the people that we did have come out were anti-SAFE Act people," Gildersleeve said.

Governor Cuomo has said it's not up to sheriffs to decide which laws to enforce, but counties should take their time in processing opt-out public records forms. Saratoga County received 2,500. Gildersleeve believes the SAFE Act will be proven as unconstitutional -- and its provisions affect those doing the right thing more than law-breakers.

"It doesn't make sense to me to go after law-abiding people," Gildersleeve said. "It's also the responsibility of the sheriff and any law enforcement officer to be cognizant of the constitutional aspects of it."
 
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