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Conway, Montes vie for Onondaga County Sheriff Tuesday

nysheriffs.org/Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway, left, is being challenegd by Democrat Mike Montes

As a highly contested midterm election season comes to a close on Election Day, there’s one race in Onondaga County that may be flying under the radar.

The choice for Onondaga County Sheriff is between a political novice and an incumbent looking for a second term. Sheriff Gene Conway, a Republican, has held the job since 2015. He’s been in local law enforcement in several capacities, as a village police officer, a sheriff’s deputy, local police chief and finally sheriff. He said people should judge him by what he has done.

"Saving money, certainly trying to create new programs that have an effect, having a situation where we have solved all the murders thanks to the great work of the detectives I have," said Conway. "Those are accomplishments that the sheriff’s office employees have contributed to. I happen to be the person who points them out to the community. So for me that’s what it’s about.”

Democrat Mike Montes has 27 years of experience working for the federal government as a special agent. He’s done 1,500 hundred investigations, ranging from money laundering to murder. He said he also has executive experience at some of the stops in his federal career. He decided early this year after retiring from the federal government that he wanted to run for sheriff.

"Really you have to stand up for what you believe in and get out there and make a difference, and for me it was getting out there and running for political office and running for sheriff because of my extensive background in law enforcement and my military service," said Montes.

Both agree on some of the big issues in the campaign: fighting the opioid epidemic, dealing with some of the systemic issues with the Justice Center and Jamesville Correctional Facility and helping fight the recent rash of violence in the city of Syracuse.

Montes fired the first salvo of the campaign, in an op-ed to syracuse.com, suggesting there has been an absence of leadership from Conway, especially in connection with recent violence in the community.

"My opponent has not been addressing these issues I’ve been raising on my platform," said Montes. "And so for me it’s a point of, you’ve got to be present and you’ve got to be in the community. And that’s something that I will do.”

Conway answered back, saying he has been out there. He says specifically, his department works with the city of Syracuse with the GIVE program that involves deputies patrolling city streets. 

“I’m a law enforcement career person. And that’s my obligation is to help do things to make our community as safe as possible.”

The winner of the race will serve a four-year term as sheriff.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.