SARANAC LAKE - Due to what his supporters are calling a "serious family medical situation out-of-state," Tom Catillaz has suspended active campaigning for the position of Harrietstown supervisor indefinitely.
The news was issued in a Friends of Tom Catillaz press release emailed to the Enterprise Tuesday morning by village Mayor Clyde Rabideau.
The release was also posted on the Friends of Tom Catillaz Facebook page, which has been scrubbed clean of all of the campaign material posted on the site over the past month. The banner of the site now includes a quote from the poem "Locksley Hall," which Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in 1835.
(Enterprise file photo)
"For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see, saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be," the quote reads.
The press release says a debate scheduled for Oct. 16 between Catillaz, a Democrat, and his opponent, Republican Bob Bevilacqua, will be canceled. Neither the Enterprise nor Denton Publications, which were organizing the debate, nor the Bevilacqua campaign were previously contacted by Catillaz or anyone from his campaign saying he wouldn't be able to participate.
Although the release says his active campaign "has ceased," Catillaz's name will still be on the ballot in the Nov. 6 election.
"Tom remains confident that he is the right choice for Harrietstown supervisor," Friends of Tom Catillaz Chairman Chad McCarthy said in the release. "However, his priority must now be his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."
Reached at work Tuesday morning, Catillaz said he was busy and hung up on an Enterprise reporter. He didn't return a pair of messages left on his cell phone later in the day.
McCarthy said he couldn't say any more about Catillaz's family medical situation, although he described it as "very significant," something that came up recently and will lead to Catillaz having to travel out of state.
"He really does need to put the campaign on hold," McCarthy said. "He still feels he's the right choice for supervisor, but his family has to come first. It's a bit of a shock for all of us, and our thoughts and prayers are with him."
Asked if Catillaz's supporters will be campaigning in his place, McCarthy said that's doubtful.
"In all honesty, he's just going to slow things down, and we all are, in respect to him," he said. "I don't think we're planning on actively campaigning in the foreseeable future."
"It was not an easy decision, and family comes first," said Trustee Paul Van Cott, a Catillaz supporter. "I respect his choice and his priority to focus on his family, and he'll be in my prayers."
Asked about the funds that have been raised on behalf of Catillaz, McCarthy said, "Immediately I'm not sure exactly what we're going to do." He declined to say how much money had been collected so far.
"We will have to deal with that," McCarthy said. "We're going to be meeting as a committee in the next day or two to address that issue."
Contacted at work Tuesday morning, Bevilacqua said he didn't know anything about Catillaz's decision to suspend his campaign. The Enterprise read him the press release over the phone.
"I'm concerned for his family," Bevilacqua said. "That would be my main concern. Other than that, I don't have any comment."
Ray Scollin, Bevilacqua's campaign manager, said he was "shocked and surprised" by the news. He had noticed Tuesday morning that Catillaz's Facebook site had largely been taken down.
"When any candidate has a problem like this, it instantly takes the wind out of everybody," Scollin said. "Our thoughts and our prayers are with Tom Catillaz and his family. Tom Catillaz is a man we respect, and we're standing shoulder to shoulder with him as we go through what is obviously a difficult time."
Franklin County Election Commissioners Veronica King and Kelly Cox said Catillaz's name will still be on the Nov. 6 ballot because he's only stopped active campaigning, not dropped out of the race. Even if he had withdrawn from the race, it would be too late for the Democrats to put anyone else's name on the ballot.
Tuesday's news comes less than a month before the election and in the middle of what's become a heated race between Catillaz, a current village trustee and former mayor, and Bevilacqua, who is in his second term as a town councilman.
Asked if the situation Catillaz is facing will impact his ability to continue to serve as a village trustee, McCarthy said that in the short term, "A lot of (Catillaz's) life is on hold."
Catillaz attended and took part in Tuesday night's village board meeting, but the Enterprise wasn't able to approach him one-on-one.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.