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4 Erie County Sheriff candidates on the ballot, 3 debate in East Aurora

Erie County Sheriff candidates (left to right) Ted DiNoto, John Garcia and Kimberly Beaty
Mike Desmond
Erie County Sheriff candidates (left to right) Ted DiNoto, John Garcia and Kimberly Beaty.

With Election Day less than three weeks away, candidates for Erie County sheriff were in East Aurora Wednesday evening for an occasionally testy debate.

This is one of those rare political races. After four terms, Sheriff Tim Howard chose instead to run for supervisor in Wales, leaving a clear field:

  • Former Buffalo Deputy Police Commissioner and current Canisius College Public Safety Director Kimberly Beaty is running as a Democrat.
  • Retired Buffalo Police Officer John Garcia is running as a Republican.
  • Amherst Police Lt. Ted DiNoto is running an an Independent.
  • Retired Buffalo Police Lt. and District Chief Karen Healy-Case is on the ballot as a Conservative.

While Healy-Case will be on the ballot, she is no longer campaigning and instead backing Beaty.
DiNoto talked about being a working officer now. Beaty pointed out Garcia has Howard's backing. Garcia said he comes from an immigrant background and knows the racial totals in the Sheriff's Department.

They were asked about providing safety. DiNoto said he will be protecting every group.

"I will talk to the leaders of the five different houses of worship of all these different religions," DiNoto said. "I will find out. I will have a documented schedule of all their special holidays, all their special events and we will provide the security that they need."

"I am ingrained in this Erie County community," said Beaty. "I have done community outreach and community presentations and I will still continue to do that for public safety. I've done active shooter training in some of our churches and will continue to do that. I'll show up personally. So we have to do community education, community outreach and we have to be there for every single person."

"We have 147 road deputies," said Garcia, "one Black male, one Native American male, 12 white females, the rest white males. I come from a department, City of Buffalo, diverse in every way. From a city, diverse in every way. We need cultural awareness."

Each was also asked about priorities, if elected. Beaty said it's deputies and prisoners.

"Responsible and accountable leadership," she said. "Right now, we don't have anyone running the Erie County Sheriff's Office. We also have to think about inmate care. 32 people have died in custody. When Sheriff Howard got the mission a few minutes ago, when he was the undersheriff, 10 people have died. We have to think about inmate care and mental health."

Garcia said there are lots of problems, starting with mobilizing on mental health.

"We have to stop the surge in violence," he said. "We have to push back the opiod epidemic. We have to ensure the public trust and deliver professional jail management. But it starts with the people. They are our most valuable resource, the men and women, the brave men and women who are working at the Erie County sheriff's office."

DiNoto said the core priority is the staff.

"The employees," he said. "We have to take care of their mental well-being before we can take care of anybody's well-being, before we can take care of the prisoners at the Holding Center, at the Correctional Facility, before we can protect a civilian in the county of Erie. We can't take care of anyone in Erie County, before we can take of ourselves."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.