Vanasse exits Hampshire County sheriff’s race; field set for Democratic primary on Sept. 6

  • John “Jack” Vanasse at his home in Florence with his dog Cooper, who wears a harness that reads “Vanasse 4 Sheriff.” April 5, 2022. GAZETTE STAFF / CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/6/2022 1:21:20 PM
Modified: 6/6/2022 1:19:11 PM

NORTHAMPTON — John “Jack” Vanasse, who declared his candidacy for Hampshire County sheriff as an independent in April, has dropped out of the race, leaving three candidates to vie for the position in the fall.

The party primaries are set for Sept. 6 and the general election is Nov. 8. No Republicans filed the necessary voter signatures to run for the seat by the May 31 deadline, so the Democratic primary winner is likely to go into November without an opponent.

If, however, a write-in candidate receives 500 votes in the Republican or other party primary, that person would become the party’s nominee and appear on the general election ballot against the Democratic nominee, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.

Sheriff Patrick Cahillane, of Leeds, is seeking a second six-year term and facing Democratic primary challenges from corrections nurse Caitlin Sepeda of South Hadley and Yvonne Gittelson of Goshen, the state education department’s corrections program specialist.

Vanasse, a Florence resident and the administrative lieutenant for the Springfield College Police Department, worked as a corrections officer at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction from 2015-18. All of Cahillane’s challengers previously worked under his administration.

“I’ve struggled over the past few weeks about making this decision/announcement, but at the end of the day I know it’s the right decision,” Vanasse wrote in a campaign Facebook post. “I’m a dad first, and everything else second. I need to put my aspirations aside for a bit and be as available as I can be” for his school-aged daughters.

Separately, in a text message to the Gazette, Vanasse said, “I’ll be back in 6 years.”

Gittelson released a statement thanking Vanasse for his “duty-driven decision” to join the race and acknowledging that running for office is difficult and “incredibly costly in terms of time, money, and attention,” especially for first-timers.

“You brought some much-needed attention to the race, and you raised some important questions that the voters of Hampshire County need to consider,” Gittelson wrote.

Gittelson said the race, with Vanasse’s input, has raised issues including claims of “poor working conditions and mismanagement on multiple levels that cause low morale, stagnation, and staff departures” at an “enormous cost to the taxpayers who have no idea about any of this.”

In his statement, Vanasse wrote that the “experience has not only strengthened my resolve to be a leader in public service, it gave me hope that better days are in front of us. It was wonderful not only visiting the various cities and towns within Hampshire County, it was just as wonderful getting to meet all of the people that I did along the way.”

He added, “This isn’t a good bye, but rather, I’ll see you again. Thank you for all of the support.”

The Worthington Town Democratic Committee plans to host virtual “Sunday with the Candidates” events for all three remaining sheriff hopefuls. Sepeda is scheduled for June 12 at 2 p.m., Gittelson is set for June 19 at 2 p.m. and Cahillane will participate on June 26.

All residents of western Massachusetts are invited to attend. If interested in receiving the Zoom link, email worthingtondem@gmail.com with your name and town.

State of fundraising

According to records kept by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), Cahillane has raised $17,759.17 from 226 donations since March.

Cahillane’s donors include Eric Lesser, the Longmeadow state senator and Democratic lieutenant governor candidate; Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan; Democratic state Reps. Dan Carey and Mindy Domb of Easthampton and Amherst, respectively; and 14 active or retired employees of the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office.

Sepeda has raised $5,775 since February including a $2,000 loan from the candidate and donations from three people who list their employer as the sheriff’s office.

Gittelson has raised $9,236 since April including $7,500 in loans from the candidate.

Under state law, candidates can either repay themselves using donations or forgive their own loans.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.
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