Otsego County Democrats agreed Friday night to cross-endorse Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr., the incumbent Republican who has been vocal in his criticism of the state’s SAFE Act legislation, which is reviled by gun rights groups.
Both County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate, and Devlin said it was the first time in recent memory that major party in the county had cross endorsed a candidate from the opposition party for a county-wide office other than a judgeship.
The endorsement from a Democratic organization of a SAFE Act critic carries irony in that it was New York’s top Democrat — Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who was behind the SAFE Act. The law redefined many weapons as assault weapons and has been cited by some as a reason why Remington Arms has opted to open a new plant in Alabama rather than expand its operations in Herkimer County.
Abbate said that before endorsing Devlin, the Democrats gained his assurances that he is poised to enforce the provisions of the SAFE Act even if he disagrees with some of them. Devlin confirmed while he would like to see the law nullified, he and his deputies will make arrests when confronted with SAFE Act violations.
As to picking up the endorsement, Devlin said in an interview: “I’m very honored to have their support. What I think it shows is that that the employees of the Sheriff's Department are doing a very good job for the people of the county."
Otsego County GOP Chairman Vince Casale welcomed the Democratic support for Devlin, “I have to wonder if the Democrats are rethinking their support for this governor and his unpopular gun law,” Casale mused.
Devlin, a Milford resident, has been sheriff for the past seven years. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he has been a member of the department since 1992, and previously had been an Oneonta police officer for four years.