Helms wins race for Cortland County sheriff

CORTLAND, N.Y. – As officials at the Cortland County Board of Elections continue to count the hundreds of absentee ballots that were sent in from outside the area, Mark Helms can safely declare victory in the race for Cortland County Sheriff.

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Helms, a Democrat, appeared the likely winner in the race following last Tuesday's election, in which he received 277 more votes than his primary opponent, Cortland County Undersheriff Herb Barnhart.

With 448 absentee ballots that needed to be counted, Barnhart refused to concede.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Helms received 3,883 votes compared to Barnhart's 3,620 votes, according to the Cortland County Board of Elections. Conservative party candidate Rich Berry, a retired state trooper, received just over 500 votes.

Helms, who is the chief of police for the village of Homer, will replace Sheriff Lee Price, who is retiring after 15 years of serving in the position.

"I'm very happy," Helms said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "I want to thank everybody that helped me and the people that voted for me. It's one of those [situations] where it's just nice to have it totally done."

Helms said he was fairly certain that Village of Homer Mayor Genevieve Suits has not received any applications for his current job but "would be surprised if they don't start coming in real soon."

When asked if he would consider keeping Barnhart as undersheriff, Helms said he didn't think that was possible.

"Everybody's been curious through the whole race who I would pick for undersheriff," Helms said. "I've got some people I'm thinking about, but my whole thing was to win this first, and then I'll choose. I wanted to make sure I did this on my own."

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