Both can­di­dates ‘seemed re­ally re­strained’ dur­ing race

The Buffalo News - - PARK REC­OM­MEN­DA­TIONS -

ter-cen­tury. Qu­at­trone worked in the same of­fice for 30 years, most of them un­der Ger­ace, be­fore re­tir­ing as a lieu­tenant to be­come di­rec­tor of a home­less mis­sion in Jamestown.

Go­ing by sim­ple hu­man na­ture, that kind of con­nec­tion – in pol­i­tics or daily life – can take an op­po­site turn when it flips into com­pe­ti­tion. This race could have ex­ploded into a bit­ter and ugly show­down.

It never hap­pened. That dearth of pub­lic mal­ice did not go un­no­ticed. Even 79-year-old Stan Lun­dine, a for­mer Demo­cratic mayor of Jamestown, lieu­tenant gover­nor and U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive who has ob­served a life­time’s worth of South­ern Tier pol­i­tics, said both can­di­dates “seemed re­ally re­strained,” de­spite the po­ten­tial volatil­ity of the race.

In sep­a­rate con­ver­sa­tions this week, Qu­at­trone and Ger­ace of­fered al­most iden­ti­cal philoso­phies in ex­plain­ing why they de­cided to cam­paign with­out flip­ping over the top. “Our fam­i­lies have known each other for a long time,” said Qu­at­trone, while Ger­ace said, “You run on who you are, what you are and what you plan to do.”

Qu­at­trone, af­ter win­ning with about 53 per­cent of the vote, main­tained that equi­lib­rium in his vic­tory speech at the Celoron Amer­i­can Le­gion Post. The son of a for­mer Busti po­lice chief, he spoke of his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for his fam­ily, in­clud­ing his dad, for­mer Busti Po­lice Chief Wayne Qu­at­trone. He went on to de­scribe a con­ver­sa­tion, dur­ing the race, with his op­po­nent’s fa­ther.

In 1974, Joseph Ger­ace Sr. made po­lit­i­cal his­tory in Chau­tauqua County. He was the first per­son elected as county ex­ec­u­tive, and later was state agri­cul­ture and mar­kets com­mis­sioner un­der Gov. Mario Cuomo. He came home to be­come a state Supreme Court jus­tice and even now, at 91, serves as a ju­di­cial hear­ing of­fi­cer.

Qu­at­trone said he grew up a few miles away from the Ger­ace home. At one point in the cam­paign, Qu­at­trone ex­plained, he saw the el­der Ger­ace out­side a po­lit­i­cal event. Joe Sr. greeted him gra­ciously, then said:

You can run against each other with­out be­com­ing en­e­mies.

Qu­at­trone said he tried to keep those words in mind. With any elec­tion, the goal is try­ing to set your­self apart. The temp­ta­tion – as has be­come typ­i­cal in pol­i­tics – is to do it by ques­tion­ing the mo­ti­va­tion and ethics of your op­po­nent.

Joe Ger­ace Jr. was run­ning for a sev­enth term. Dur­ing more than two decades on the job, he said he tried to main­tain a high thresh­old of per­for­mance and ac­ces­si­bil­ity – such as mak­ing pub­lic the num­ber for his mo­bile phone, a choice that in this era seems al­most un­be­liev­able.

Qu­at­trone said he had his own dreams for the sher­iff’s of­fice, built around col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fi­ciency. He said he spent months dis­cussing the idea with his wife, Nancy, af­ter he re­tired in 2017, as a lieu­tenant.

Last win­ter, he met with Repub­li­can com­mit­tee mem­bers. He said he told them he was ready to run, but that he wanted it to be a “clean cam­paign,” built around the is­sues, free of at­tacks on char­ac­ter.

At that point, he said, he com­mit­ted him­self to the race.

As for Ger­ace, he is still con­sid­er­ing his next step – but he said it will not be re­tire­ment.

Dur­ing their years of work­ing to­gether, he said, he con­sid­ered Qu­at­trone a friend. While that long re­la­tion­ship am­pli­fied the sting of the loss, Ger­ace called Qu­at­trone to wish him luck once the re­sults came in, and he said he in­tends to help with the tran­si­tion.

The idea of “lash­ing out is not in my mo­ral fiber,” Ger­ace said. His rea­son­ing echoed the way Qu­at­trone put it when I spoke to him an hour later.

We live in a time, both said, in which we ur­gently need sin­cere, hard­work­ing women and men to seek elec­tive of­fice. Yet Ger­ace said the sav­agery of many cam­paigns, the trend to­ward look­ing for any de­tail to use in trash­ing char­ac­ter and ca­reers, tends “to keep re­ally good peo­ple out of pol­i­tics.”

Ger­ace said he knows of po­ten­tial can­di­dates who could help the larger com­mu­nity but stay away be­cause they “don’t want to get pounded, and then have their fam­i­lies go through it.”

Qu­at­trone made a sim­i­lar ar­gu­ment. He said he was con­scious of try­ing to set a dif­fer­ent ex­am­ple with his cam­paign and with the words he used.

“I be­lieve that Joe and I both had the safety and se­cu­rity of this com­mu­nity at heart,” Qu­at­trone said.

None of this should be mis­taken for a kum­baya. Feel­ings re­main raw, and the in­ten­sity of a long re­la­tion­ship in a rel­a­tively small com­mu­nity means two vet­eran law en­force­ment of­fi­cers may never en­tirely bridge the gulf. That only makes their pub­lic re­sponse this week more strik­ing, the way one re­fused to of­fer any hint of gloat­ing while the other de­clined to of­fer words of bit­ter­ness.

Be­yond Chau­tauqua County, maybe, it was seen as just an­other race in West­ern New York, one that might have gone with­out par­tic­u­lar no­tice ex­cept for a choice to avoid a bon­fire of in­sults, taunts and rage.

If you have grown weary of such heat, here is one dose of fresh water.

Jim Qu­at­trone, left, and in­cum­bent Joe Ger­ace Jr. kept race civil.

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