Congratulations to Toulon, who is the first black countywide elected official on Long Island, other than a judge. Now he must make a different kind of history. Coming into 2018, he needs to make a clean break from the political power brokers who delivered his victory. He must serve only the interests of the people of Suffolk.
That might not be easy, given the recent history of the sheriff’s office and the troubling way Toulon came into the position, but it is utterly necessary.
Toulon was a late nominee, plucked by Suffolk Democratic Party leader Richard Schaffer after the collapse of a convoluted plan hatched with former Conservative Party chairman Edward Walsh. Walsh wanted GOP State Sen. Phil Boyle, who had no law enforcement experience, to replace incumbent sheriff and Conservative Party member Vincent DeMarco.
Toulon and Zacarese vied to replace Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in the Nov. 7 election that was too close to call on election night and required counting of more than 14,000 absentee ballots. Toulon expanded his unofficial election night lead of 1,352 votes over Zacarese to 2,043 votes by Monday, out of more than 300,000 votes cast. A handful of votes remain to be counted, election officials said.
Suffolk’s other contested race was also settled when Republican Anthony Piccirillo conceded the 8th Legislative District to incumbent Legis. William J. Lindsay III (D-Bohemia).
Zacarese, an assistant police chief at Stony Brook University, conceded the election in a news release and congratulated Toulon.
“I am proud of the campaign we ran, the honest and tireless work of our volunteers and the light that was shown on the electoral process here in Suffolk County,” he wrote.
Toulon’s stated priorities — working on gang violence and the opioid epidemic, improving programs for those leaving the county jail and re-entering society — are solid. But he would be wise to also adopt some Zacarese proposals — like being willing to reassign people in patronage positions and making merit the standard for assignments, promotions and overtime. These would be strong signals to send to a department that needs a culture change. And they would show that indeed there is a new sheriff in town who is his own boss.
“Clearly voters heard my message of what I want to bring to the sheriff’s office and I guess it resonated,” he said in an interview.Winning the election is “still very surreal,” he said. “You look back on my life, a kid who grew up the South Bronx, who worked the jails on Riker’s Island, to attain such a high office in Suffolk County,” he said.
Toulon, a former aide to County Executive Steve Bellone and board member of the Suffolk Water Authority, was a late entry in the race after Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) lost the Republican primary to Zacarese.
Toulon ended up getting backing of the Conservative and Independence parties. He received 25,733 votes on those lines Election Day, according to the Suffolk Board of Elections.
Being the first black Islandwide elected official “has really not sunk in yet. But I hope that any individual, no matter what race, ethnicity or gender, if they pursue their dreams or their goals, they can achieve anything they want.”
Toulon’s mission mirrors that of Tim Sini, the newly elected district attorney — run an independent, effective office that puts criminal justice ahead of politics. Toulon must stand tall and help deliver Suffolk from the swamp it has been mired in for years.