York Out in Sheriff's Race
The race for Putnam County sheriff took a striking turn this week, as prosecutor Christopher York withdrew from seeking the Republican nomination and threw his support to Kevin McConville of Cold Spring.
The move gives McConville a much better shot at the incumbent Republican, Sheriff Donald Smith, who is seeking reelection.
York said that as he and McConville courted Republican town committees, they grew to know one another better: “I clearly saw we’re both professional law enforcement people, not politicians. We both have a love of law enforcement. We believe similar things need to be done … The whole reason I ran was we need professional law enforcement management in the Sheriff’s Department. When I saw Kevin would be an excellent candidate as well, I had no problem supporting him.”
York and McConville met with this reporter to discuss the changes in the race. McConville, a former chief of the 768-member MTA Police Department, said he was “honored” by the new support.
“Chris has an outstanding professional career as a prosecutor and a law enforcement officer,” McConville said of Putnam’s senior assistant district attorney. “He’s done some great things in law enforcement. To obtain his support for my candidacy is very humbling.”
McConville ran against Smith four years ago as a Democrat, essentially to obtain a clear ballot line, though he had been a Republican before that. “My explanation is it’s something I did four ago because of my passion to improve law enforcement services in the county,” he said.
For his part, Smith said late Wednesday: “I respect Mr. York’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for Sheriff and I certainly wish him success as he continues to serve Putnam County as a prosecutor. I remain focused on fulfilling the important duties of the Office of Sheriff and have been so very gratified to receive the strong support and encouragement from so many citizens who have urged me to continue serving them as their Sheriff.”
Both York, of Southeast, and McConville reiterated earlier claims that the Sheriff’s Department has been mismanaged regarding conflicts of interest, overtime spending and cooperation with other agencies such as the district attorney. “We live in tough economic times,” McConville said. “We can’t keep mismanaging the office of sheriff and spending money we don’t have.”
No Democrat has announced so far. The Sheriff supervises 167 employees and a budget of $23.8 million.
Some Republican leaders across Putnam have become disaffected by Smith, but he remains personally popular across large parts of the county. Those who want a change in the Sheriff’s Department believe that one main challenger would be more likely to succeed against Smith. The nominating convention is later this month, but the race is almost certain to go to a primary.