William King Jr., the closest candidate to an incumbent in a messy race for York County Sheriff, lead the three-way Democratic primary late Tuesday with 53 percent of the vote.

With 83 percent of precincts reporting, King, who is the county department’s chief deputy, was far ahead of his next-closest competitor, retired sheriff’s deputy Paul Main, who had 24 percent of the votes tallied.

Lagging in third was South Berwick Police Chief Dana LaJoie, who had 23 percent of the ballots counted.

The race has been a messy one, featuring behind-the-scenes mudslinging and a dredging up of each candidate’s past.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, King was almost celebrating at his campaign manager’s home in Westbrook.

“I’m over here with some campaign workers, we’re eating some pizza, we’re talking and we’re feeling very very good,” King said. “I think the candidates ran an admirable campaign – you know what, strike that last part. I think the citizens of York County looked at the qualifications of each candidate and made the right choice.”

Main said in a phone interview that he’s keeping his hopes up. Asked if he still thinks he’s in the fight, Mains replied: “Oh, yea.”

“It ain’t over till its over,” he said.

LaJoie did not immediately respond to two calls seeking comment.

All of the candidates boast law enforcement experience, but they have starkly different histories.

King early career was spent working for the U.S. Justice Department, a position from which he retired in 2008 after 20 years.

LaJoie, who has a 33-year-career in the Berwick department, has been chief there for the last 28 years. Main retired in 1999 from law enforcement. Each of the campaigns dredged up unflattering information about the others, making the three-way race particularly negative.

LaJoie and Main have both criticized King for his connection to the county jail, which they said is poorly managed. King said his detractors have no experience running a jail or a county-wide law enforcement agency.

King has also taken flack for his misuse of a government-issued vehicle while he was employed in Atlanta nine years ago. King was suspended for the offense and later transferred to New York City.

LaJoie has been criticized for a period in 1992 when the town of Berwick investigated 29 complaints against his officers. Although a citizen committee recommended termination, LaJoie was suspended for two weeks. Five years later, LaJoie was accused of sexual harassment by a female employee, who said that when she rebuffed LaJoie’s advances, he accused her of poor work performance. The civil case was dismissed by a judge without a trial, partly because the woman did not notify the town about the harassment until shortly before she quit.

Main has been criticized for his own campaign tactics.

In leaflets, Main made no mention that he has been out of law enforcement for nearly 15 years, instead pointing only to his experience in search-and-rescue and other law-enforcement specialties, which date to the 1980s and 1990s.

This story will be updated.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be reached at 791-6303, or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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