Howard Looking For Record Fourth Term

Tolbert challenges incumbent Sheriff

Richard Root
November 07, 2017 - 6:30 am
Howard V Tolbert

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - One of the three big county races this year is for Erie County Sheriff.  Incumbent Republican Tim Howard is looking for a record fourth term this year, but he's being challenged by Democrat Bernie Tolbert.

Bernie Tolbert has attacked Tim Howard on several fronts, including bringing up the 22 county jail deaths over the past 12 years. Most of the those have been by suicide.

Tolbert says that's too many deaths under Howard's watch.

"People coming into the holding center are not yet guilty of anything, they're waiting for their cases to be adjudicated," Tolbert says, "they should be able to leave not harmed." 

Howard says on that issue, Tolbert is simply trying to capitalize on someone else's tragedy.

"Our death rate with an average then of 1,600 inmates was significantly less than the national average, "Howard explains, " not five times as he (Tolbert) and his supporters allege."

Another issue raised by Tolbert is the opioid epidemic.  While Tolbert says Howard hasn't done enough, Howard says Erie County has been innovators in the fight against drug addiction.

"We led (on this issue) in Erie County," Howard says.

"No one has more of the drug drop-boxes than we do.  We actually pioneered them through our office.  We have 20 of them now at various locations around the county."

Howard has been on the attack as well. A campaign ad supporting Howard claims Tolbert was sued for sexual harassment while working for the NBA. Tolbert calls that an outright lie.

Tolbert says that suit was settled long ago and that he can't talk about it, but to say that he's never been accused of sexual harassment.

Some notes on the Erie County Sheriff's post:

  • The term is four years.
  • Howard is among three Sheriff's who have served three terms.  The other two are Arthur Britt (1942-1955) and Thomas Higgins (1986-1997).
  • An average of about a dozen inmates die each day in the USA, according to the Justice Department. Suicide is the leading cause of death for inmates in local jails.


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