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Wendel, Green Tout Experience In Executive Race

PJ Wendel, left, and Norm Green

It appears as if both candidates for Chautauqua County executive plan to rely heavily on their years of leadership experience in appealing to voters this year.

PJ Wendel, who officially kicked off his re-election campaign last week, will be up against a familiar face when it comes to county elections: Norm Green, who confirmed Friday he is all-in on seeking the county’s top elected position.

“I am humbled by the support I continue to see throughout our community,” Wendel, a Republican, said in a campaign kickoff statement. “To file our countywide petitions with over 1,500 signatures shows the energy around my campaign, and is a vote of confidence for the job I am doing as county executive. I thank all of the volunteers for their hard work, and all of our county residents for their support.”

Said Green, “I plan on running hard for county executive. … There are things that come together at a certain point in time when you realize you’re being called to lead. I have led my entire life.”

In November, Wendel easily defeated Democrat Richard Morrisroe, attorney for the city of Dunkirk, by more than 70% of the countywide vote to fill a vacancy left by George Borrello.

The incumbent comes in with a lengthy resume as an elected official, having served as a member of the Lakewood Village Board and later as deputy mayor. In 2011, Wendel was elected to the county Legislature, and served as its chairman in 2018. He was appointed to fill Borrello’s county executive post prior to being elected outright last year.

Green, meanwhile, has been the county Democratic election commissioner for 22 years prior to his resignation on Thursday. He also serves as the chairman of the county Democratic Committee.

While Wendel’s decision to seek a full four-year term as county executive comes as little surprise, Green’s candidacy took a longer route. He initially planned to retire as commissioner last fall with his deputy, Luz Torres, to take his place. However, the county Legislature opted not to take up the vote, and instead members of the Democratic caucus put forth Loren Kent, a resolution that passed the legislature but not yet filed by the clerk due to a pending lawsuit filed by Green and Torres in state Supreme Court in Chautauqua County.

In March, the Working Families Party announced it had endorsed Green for county executive, mostly as a placeholder until another candidate could be secured. Green ultimately declined the endorsement.

County Democrats had hoped Morrisroe would again be its standard-bearer against Wendel in the November general election; petitions were circulated on his behalf, but according to WRFA, he declined the nomination during a meeting March 28 of the county Democratic Committee.

“We as a party totally supported Morrisroe,” Green said. “We had hoped that he was going to step up and run. I’m more than happy to be the replacement — the guy that comes in as the relief pitcher.”

Green said he has personally thanked the “rank and file” employees of the county, especially those in the health and social services departments “on the second and third floors of the Hall R. Clothier building” who have worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic, now entering a second year. He said it’s those employees who “deserve better leadership.”

Asked what he plans to run on for the county executive post, Green noted his years in a management position as commissioner within the county Board of Elections. “It starts with a lifetime of management success,” he said.

Green plans to formally announce his campaign kick-off shortly.

Wendel said he is proud of the work done by county staff during the pandemic.

“I believe my track record and his speak for themselves in regards to leadership,” said Wendel, noting that he obtained more than enough petitions to get on the ballot with a desire to continue serving the county.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic I will shift our focus on rebuilding our economy, and coming back stronger than before,” Wendel said in last week’s kick-off announcement. “Although many things slowed down last year, my team has been hard at work. In 2020 our economic development team worked with over 90 companies to retain over 1,500 local jobs and get commitments for nearly 300 new local positions. I will bring the same intensity my team has brought to county government for the last year throughout a four-year term to achieve results for the residents of Chautauqua County.”

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