Democrat Toby Shelley declared victory in the sheriff's race versus Republican Esteban Gonzalez on Election Night. Photo by Chris Libonati | Central Current

Democrat Toby Shelley has declared victory in the Onondaga County Sheriff’s race over his opponent Republican Esteban Gonzalez.

Shelley held a lead of 82,320 votes — or 50.8% — over Gonzalez’s 79,648 — or 49% — just before midnight Tuesday, according to unofficial results reported to the Onondaga County Board of Elections. Not all absentee ballots have been counted.

Gonzalez has not yet given a concession speech. He told the crowd of Republicans gathered at Embassy Suites near Destiny USA that the number of absentee ballots in the county still left him a path to winning.

The new sheriff will have his hands full after a tumultuous year.

Deputy Isaac Eames shot and killed his son, himself and attempted to kill his wife after he was placed under investigation for embezzling money out of the sheriff’s office. He stole more than $500,000 from the county.

In August, a woman held at the county jail prematurely gave birth to an infant who later died. The New York State Attorney General’s Office is still deciding whether to fully investigate the case. 

The department did not have body-worn cameras until it began implementing them this year. The sheriff’s office bought the cameras after a deputy and other police officers shot and killed a Jamesville teenager carrying a BB gun while in crisis.

Estaban M. Gonzalez stands with his family as he addresses the Republican Watch Party at Embassy Suites on Hiawatha Boulevard West in Syracuse Tuesday night. He said he’ll wait for all of the ballots to be counted before conceding to his opponent Toby Shelley, who declared victory on Election Night. Photo by Michelle Gabel | Central Current.

Shelley has mounted three previous unsuccessful campaigns for sheriff. This is his fourth. Shelley is the county’s first Democratic sheriff since 1978. That year, Patrick “Packy” Corbett finished out his 14 years as sheriff. (Corbett is the grandfather of NY-22 Democratic candidate Francis Conole.)

In Shelley’s closest bid, he lost 51% to 45% against Eugene Conway in 2014. 

Gonzalez has worked in the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office since 1994. For the last 10 years, he’s been in charge of the county jail. He would have been the first sheriff who didn’t have road patrol experience.

Conway, who has been sheriff since winning that 2014 race, announced his plans to retire in January.

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Chris Libonati

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.