The 2017 election is just a week away. Despite a generally very quiet campaign season, the TV ads are increasing and mailboxes are filling up with those oversized political postcards.
The candidates are spending lots of money but it will not translate into much voter enthusiasm. Look for a countywide turnout of less than 20 percent, with exceptions in the Towns of Amherst, Hamburg, Tonawanda and West Seneca.
Here is a quick summary of the campaign financial reports in major races which were due to the State Board of Elections on October 27th:
Mayor Byron Brown is coasting to his victory. He spent $29,826 since October 6th, mostly on food for volunteers and some basic campaign expenses, leaving him a balance of $110,619. City Comptroller Mark Schroeder is on the ballot as the candidate of the Reform Party, but has spent only $1,575 and is not actively campaigning. Schroeder has a balance of $24,616.
Erie County Clerk. This is the most competitive of the three countywide races. Both Democrat Steve Cichon and Republican Mickey Kearns are working hard and spending big money. Cichon invested $70,000 in TV ads and had $51,614 left in his account as of last week, with a major fundraiser scheduled after the filing deadline. The Friends of Mark Poloncarz committee contributed $25,000 to Cichon, with the Erie County Democratic Committee helping with $65,000. Kearns had a balance of $83,532. He also had a fundraiser scheduled after the report deadline.
Erie County Sheriff. The two candidates are aggressively presenting their own credentials and challenging their opponent. Republican Tim Howard had a balance of $94,243 after spending an additional $10,000 on TV. Bernie Tolbert has a balance of $59,028 after spending $60,000 for TV ads.
Erie County Comptroller. Republican incumbent Stefan Mychajliw is far out-spending his Democratic challenger, Vanessa Glushefski. Mychajliw has added $15,000 to his TV budget, leaving him a balance of $15,873. Glushefski had $41,950 in her campaign account as of last week, with her biggest expense for billboards.
Erie County Legislature. Here are the balances in the campaign accounts of the four competitive races for the Legislature:
- District 5. Incumbent Democrat Tom Loughran — $8,410; Republican Guy Marlette – $30,603
- District 8. Incumbent Republican Ted Morton — $13,889; Democrat John Bruso – $22,045
- District 9. Incumbent Independent Lynn Dixon — $37,659; Democrat Michael Quinn — $16,372
- District 10. Incumbent Conservative Joe Lorigo — $125,644; Democrat Michelle Schoeneman — $41,589
Chris Grant watch
For those keeping score, money continues to pour into the coffers of Republican consultant Chris Grant from local candidates. An additional $27,000 was spent by Republican candidates, bringing this cycle’s total to $170,890 thus far. Recent additional payments to Big Dog Strategies include $15,000 from Comptroller Mychajliw and $12,000 from Hamburg Supervisor candidate Dennis Gaughan. Gaughan, incidentally, filed a financial report that shows a negative balance of $22,856. I’m not sure how you get to do that.
The Erie County Legislature periodically needs to approve the renewal of 1.75 percent of the county sales tax. The taxes are the leftover consequences of irresponsible budgeting in the 1980s and again in 2004 and 2005. The tax annually produces $273 million in revenues for the county.
In a recent vote at the Legislature, Legislators Lorigo, Dixon and Morton all voted against renewal of the tax. No one wants to pay any more in taxes than they need to, but legislators have a responsibility to keep the county government funded and the budget balanced. The opponents to the tax did not offer an alternative tax proposal or spending cuts to fill the $273 million revenue gap that their votes would have created. Lorigo’s excuse about the timing of the vote is lame. Their votes were a silly exercise in election season politics.