Langley is New Putnam Sheriff (Updated)

After absentee count, challenger defeats Smith by 341 votes

By Chip Rowe

Langley

By the thinnest of margins, Robert Langley Jr. on Nov. 14 became Putnam County’s 54th sheriff.

After absentee votes were counted late into the night by the Putnam County Board of Elections, Langley had defeated four-term incumbent Don Smith by 341 votes of nearly 25,000 cast for the office. He led by 355 votes after all 172 precincts reported their machine results on Nov. 7. The tally remains unofficial until certified by the county’s two election commissioners.

The count released by the Board of Elections on Nov. 14 showed 12,308 votes (49.71 percent) for Langley, who lives in Garrison and ran on the Democratic and Women’s Equality lines, and 11,967 for Smith (48.34 percent), who ran on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform lines.

In a statement on Nov. 15, Langley thanked those who voted for him and said he was “eager to earn the support of those who did not.” He said he would “serve with integrity and accountability to the public” and “return integrity to the Office of Sheriff.”

“To the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department, I am eager to work alongside you and serve the public with you. In the coming weeks, I will be planning my transition into office and considering appointments that I believe will best serve our communities and our team.” (Click here to read entire statement.)

In a statement on Nov. 15, Smith wrote: “Mr. Langley will be the next sheriff of Putnam County and I congratulate him and wish him well. I know we both agree that all the votes need to be counted and we both will respect the final tally. I am very proud of the positive, clean campaign that we conducted and, I believe, our campaign upheld the honor and integrity of the Office of Sheriff.”

Smith also thanked his supporters and Putnam County residents “for giving me the privilege of serving you these past 16 years as your sheriff. It has truly been one of the greatest honors and privileges of my entire life.” (Click here to read entire statement.)

Smith would have needed to win about 65 percent of the 1,286 absentee and affidavit ballots to overtake Langley. (Affidavits are paper ballots used when a voter did not show up in the rolls.) Nearly 42 percent of Putnam County voters turned out for the election.

There were also 483 write-in votes (up from 467 reported on Election Night), presumably with most cast for Andrew DeStefano, who hoped to challenge Smith in the Republican primary but whose nomination petition was invalidated. That means DeStefano may have played the spoiler, taking enough votes from Smith to swing the election for the Democrat.

205 Years of Sheriffs

The first sheriff of Putnam County was William H. Johnston, in 1812. The longest tenure of the men who followed was three two-year terms. In 1947, Frank Lyden was elected as a Republican. He was re-elected until 1966, when he retired. He was succeeded by a deputy, Ray Weizenecker, who was endorsed by his boss and the Democratic Party. After Weizenecker’s death in 1985, Robert Thoubboron, a Republican, was elected and re-elected until 2001, when, under the cloud of a state investigation, he was soundly defeated in the Republican primary by Smith, the deputy county executive.

In a comment posted Nov. 8 at highlandscurrent.com, DeStefano charged that Putnam Board of Elections Commissioner Anthony Scannapieco Jr., who is also a town chairman for the Putnam County Republican Party, derailed his nominating petition to prevent a primary battle for Smith.

“His scheming backfired badly,” DeStefano wrote, adding that he received reports from the Republican election-night headquarters at Villa Barone in Mahopac that Scannapieco was “cursing my existence…. Never has anyone received 467 votes on a write-in in Putnam.”

Scannapieco did not return an email message seeking comment.

With other Philipstown Democrats, Langley awaited the returns in a Main Street home in Nelsonville, where fervent shouts and applause greeted his victory after all 172 polling stations had reported. He said that he won because “it’s what the people want, what the people choose. This has never been about me. It was about the community in Putnam County.”

The next day, in a statement, Langley was more cautious, saying it “appears we have won an historic victory.” He added: “Voters sent a clear message that we need a sheriff with integrity, and one worthy of trust. I am honored and humbled by the trust you have placed in me.”

In his own statement on Nov. 8, Smith attributed the close race on what he said was higher-than-expected Democratic turnout because of widespread opposition to a ballot measure calling for a constitutional convention.

However, the focus of Langley’s and DeStefano’s attacks on the sheriff during the campaign was a defamation lawsuit filed against him by a former Putnam County district attorney, Adam Levy. Smith agreed in June to settle the case with a public apology and $150,000. He paid $25,000 and Putnam County legislators voted to have the county pick up the rest. Smith is also fighting a multimillion-dollar civil suit in a related case.

Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong contributed reporting.

14 Responses to "Langley is New Putnam Sheriff (Updated)"

  1. Shelley Gilbert
    Shelley Gilbert   November 8, 2017 at 2:25 am

    Congratulations Robert L. Langley Jr.! Hopefully the citizens who voted for other candidates will see that Sheriff Langley believes in fairness and will prefer his Democratic leadership.

    Reply
  2. Andrew DeStefano
    Andrew DeStefano   November 8, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Smith lost by 335 votes. I received 467 on the write-in vote after having my Republican petitions unlawfully invalidated by the Elections Commissioner who is also the Putnam GOP Chairman, all in an effort to prevent a Republican primary. His scheming backfired badly.

    Reply
  3. Andrew DeStefano
    Andrew DeStefano   November 8, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Also, I received calls from people saying Election Commissioner Scannapieco was at the Villa Barone after the vote cursing my existence and using very profane, inappropriate language when referencing me. Never has anyone received 467 votes on a write-in in Putnam.

    Reply
  4. Gordon Moccio   November 8, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Great job, Andrew. You played the part of spoiler. Let’s hope Mr. Langley is not the progressive liberal he was touted as.

    Reply
  5. Leonora Burton   November 8, 2017 at 9:49 am

    What a relief to have an honest man elected as sheriff. Congratulations, Robert L. Langley Jr.

    Reply
  6. John Plummer   November 8, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Congratulations to our new sheriff! It is such a victory for all citizens of Putnam County, to have a person of integrity in the position of chief law enforcement officer.

    Reply
  7. Matt Francisco   November 8, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    We all won when Langley won! Congratulations and thanks for stepping up. We are lucky to have you.

    Reply
  8. Angelo Anthony   November 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Better a “progressive liberal” than a guy who slanders and libels the former district attorney and costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. What’s “conservative” about libel, slander and wasting our money to feed his ego?

    Reply
  9. Steve Reilley   November 8, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I laugh when I hear people slight a “progressive liberal.” How is that worse than another angry conservative who rationalizes fraudulently defaming an elected official doing their job?

    Reply
  10. Alison May   November 8, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    It’s Christmas in November! What a lift to my spirits to see Putnam voters find new hope that their local government can truly be a democratic process where the voters, not the one-party system, wins out! Former Sheriff Don Smith needs to rest and take care of his health and reflect on the harvest of lawsuits and wasted tax dollars he caused by using a public office for personal vendetta. Pride comes before a fall. No one is entitled to re-election. Put the service back in public service on all levels. And dear Republican party machine veterans take note: Putnam is no longer your personal private party!

    Reply
  11. Patty Villanova   November 9, 2017 at 9:34 am

    As a lifelong, registered Putnam Republican, I welcome the shake-up of the corrupt party establishment that supported Don Smith, who betrayed his office and the taxpayers. I find it sickening that our county is being run by a group of sleazy politicians who have an “R” after their names and who are enriching themselves at our expense.

    Mr. Langley’s election should point out the obvious: It’s about time that there’s a movement for genuine reform in the party, from top to bottom. As evidenced by what they did to Mr. DeStefano, it will not be easy to get rid of these entrenched crooks, but if something isn’t done soon, the GOP can kiss their county majority goodbye.

    I hope that Langley will clean house in the Sheriff’s Department as best he can, and get rid of as many Smith loyalists as possible. It is simply not acceptable to have such a politicized law enforcement agency in our county.

    Don Smith should never have been allowed to run for re-election, since he did not have the humility to voluntarily step aside after he admitted to wrongdoing in the Adam Levy case. Instead, the county establishment circled the wagons and closed ranks to protect and defend his candidacy at all costs.

    I sincerely hope that next election cycle, the registered Republicans remember what just happened and choose their candidates accordingly.

    Reply
  12. Andrew DeStefano   November 9, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    It was definitely not my intention to play the role of spoiler. Had the Putnam County Board of Elections simply allowed the process to run its normal course, I wound have been on the ballot for the Republican primary. Had I lost the primary — which I would not have — I would have walked away.

    However, the elections commissioner decided to do the job of the GOP Chairman and wrongfully invalidate my petitions, and I somehow was supposed to just walk away because they say so. I’ve never given in to bullying and I’m not about to start. We did a write-in because my legal place on the ballot was denied me.

    While they can blame me all they want, in blaming me they are simply avoiding responsibility for the collapse of the Republican Party. The fact is, Mr. Smith is a 16-year incumbent, and Mr. Langley should not have been within 300 votes of him. A 16-year incumbent should have been 2,000 votes ahead. I know how organizations run and I️ saw this coming years ago, as the Putnam GOP fails to embrace and nurture its talent and instead chooses to recycle.

    I wish Mr. Langley luck and best wishes for the future.

    Reply
  13. Wendy Wolf   November 10, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    So glad that Robert Langley is the new sheriff! We need some new blood!

    Reply
  14. Ann Fanizzi   November 15, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    “He Lied and We Paid.” No, in the end, Smith paid. Time for term limits to be imposed. Sixteen years is 16 years too long. Rot seeps in with complacency and presumption.

    Reply

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