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Canisius's Kim Beaty set to be next sheriff

If the campaigns are any indication, Beaty will make a better sheriff. (Griffin file photo)

There will be a new sheriff in town come January. Four-term incumbent Sheriff Tim Howard (no, not the soccer goalie) will instead seek the supervisorship of Wales (no, not the country). After a surprise win in June’s Democratic primary, Canisius Director of Public Safety Kimberly Beaty faces the hand-picked favorite of outgoing Sheriff Howard, Republican John Garcia.

The sheriff enforces court orders, provides general police services as well as specialized ones such as crash investigations, and oversees the Erie County Holding Center in Buffalo and Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden. Under Sheriff Howard’s watch, more than two dozen inmates have perished, and the ECHC and ECCF are under seemingly constant state investigation. With more than two-thirds of the department’s $120,00,000 annual budget going to them, supervision of the holding center and correctional facility is the most notable duty of the sheriff.

Brian Gould, the endorsed Democrat defeated by Beaty in the June Democratic primary, gracefully accepted defeat and dropped his other ballot lines. Karen Healy-Case (no relation to the Opinion Editor), the endorsed Republican who lost in the primary, kept her Conservative Party line, which could take votes from Garcia.

Byron Brown’s write-in campaign is sure to attract more Buffalo voters than would otherwise turnout for a countywide election, meaning Democrats will make better use of having nearly double the number of registered county voters compared to Republicans.

Erie County Democratic leaders, wary of suburban voters, were hesitant — to put it nicely — of endorsing a black woman for sheriff in Erie County. Beaty’s vision and understanding of the job combined with Garcia’s total lack of those qualities should be enough, along with the Democrats’ 2-to-1 voter advantage, Karen Healy-Case’s presence, and the mayoral election boosting turnout in Buffalo, for her to become the first black and female Erie County sheriff.

Kim Beaty’s campaign site is professional, noting her three decades as a Buffalo police officer and leadership roles within that department. She confronts Sheriff Howard’s poor record, calling for specific policies such as “ending solitary confinement,” working with a “Crisis Services Team,” and “implementing medically assisted treatment for inmates struggling with addiction to reduce harm, suffering, and more expensive medical intervention.”

Garcia’s got a great life story; he escaped fascist Spain for Buffalo, learned English, and worked his way up in the restaurant business and law enforcement. His community connections and bilingual skills may make him a great police officer, but we aren’t electing a sheriff because of their past, we’re electing them for how they will do in the new job. Past experiences are obviously a plus, but he doesn’t seem to have a plan if he is elected.

On his campaign website he writes an editorial (that’s our job!) about his life. That “I have been shot at and I have been shot” is admirable, but shows a lack of understanding about the job. He’s not running for sheriff’s deputy, or even detective; he’s running for sheriff, an administrative post. It’s good he understands what his deputies will face, but he doesn’t show a smidgen of understanding about the job he’s actually running for.

He pledges to “impanel a team of highly skilled and committed professionals” — John Flynn should be worried because it sounds like Garcia’s gunning for District Attorney — and “work diligently to implement 21st century practices tailored to improving all facets of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.” For someone who says he’s not a politician, he sure sounds like one.

The only policy he offers is a veiled threat that he won’t enforce “executive fiats” such as New York’s Safe Act and bail reform — another stumble that belies his understanding of the job of sheriff, an officer of the State of New York. The 1791 Society, a pro-gun group, endorses him explicity because they believe he will “oppose the New York City Socialist/Democrat cabal.” That endorsement is frightening, and Garcia’s embrace of it is another red flag.

If the campaigns are any indication, Beaty will make a better sheriff — one who upholds the law while having a plan to improve facilities under her jurisdiction. Sheriff Howard himself tells us that Garcia will be a continuation of the status quo. Garcia’s awkward campaign messaging and reliance on parochial endorsements from law enforcement unions and ideological groups makes us question who he will be working for.

It’s true that the skills needed to campaign aren’t the same skills needed to govern. However, if a candidate can’t handle a campaign, they certainly can’t handle governance. Kim Beaty is the clear choice for sheriff.

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