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York County District Attorney Tom Kearney will not seek re-election in 2017, instead opting to throw his support in the upcoming race for the position behind one of his top prosecutors.

Chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday, who co-chairs the York County Heroin Task Force, announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for district attorney on Tuesday in the same release that made public Kearney's decision.

Sunday focused on the drug trade as the most important law-enforcement issue in York County. The Carroll Township resident said it is "the driving factor of violence, theft and other crimes related to substance abuse," according to the news release, in which Sunday and Kearney commended each other's work.

Sunday and York County Coroner Pam Gay created the heroin task force in 2014, and it continues to operate as a coalition of law enforcement, health personnel, advocates and community leaders aimed at addressing what local officials repeatedly have called a heroin epidemic.

He stressed the recent prosecutions for drug deliveries resulting in death — times when people are accused of selling drugs that lead to someone's death — in getting dealers off the streets. The release also touted the 85 presentations he and Gay have given to schools and community groups to try to better educate people about the dangers of heroin.

Background: Sunday was promoted to the position of chief deputy prosecutor in 2010, one year after the Penn State and Widener Law grad joined the DA's office as prosecutor. Sunday is a Navy veteran who served in the Persian Gulf during operation Desert Strike and took part in numerous counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean and South America, according to the release.

Since 2013, Sunday has served as a special assistant to the federal prosecutor's office in Harrisburg. He has helped prosecute federal gang, drug and gun cases, the release states.

Sunday is one of three chief deputy prosecutors; he's the chief of litigation for the DA's office. The position of chief deputy prosecutor is below only the district attorney and the first assistant district attorney within the administration.

Sunday is the first person to declare the intention to run for the county's top law-enforcement position. Kearney, who had been a local defense attorney for years, was elected district attorney in 2009, promising to hold the position for no more than two four-year terms. He was re-elected in 2013.

Sunday won’t have to resign his post in the county district attorney’s office in order to seek election as the top cop, said Glenn Smith, the county solicitor.

Smith noted former county solicitor Mike Flannelly didn’t have to resign when he was seeking election to the York County Court of Common Pleas bench.

— Reach Sean Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @SPCotterYD. Staff writer Greg Gross contributed to this report.

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