Voting has begun as candidates head toward the home stretch

Take a moment to absorb the headline above. I’ve been involved in and around politics for a long time, but the new early voting arrangement has a rather strange feeling to it. Then again, we are just catching up with the other 38 states plus the District of Columbia that have already had the process in place.

Voting began this past Saturday and continues through next Sunday, November 3rd. You can access location and time information from the Erie County Board of Elections website here. Here’s the link for Niagara County, which only has two early voting locations.

Early indications are that voters are just beginning to dip their toes into the water. You can still, if you choose, go to your regular polling place on November 5th.

My curiosity led me to casting my vote yesterday. I live in Amherst, but early voting regulations allow you to vote at any of the 37 sites in Erie County, so I chose to vote at the VFW Post in Cheektowaga. The Board of Elections mailed cards to registered voters for easier identification and the system worked well. It only took a couple minutes for the poll worker to scan my card and print my Amherst ballot. You don’t actually need the card to get your ballot for early voting.

Early voting in other states has sometimes been seen as leading to increased turnout. In this year of the four year New York election cycle it is not unusual in recent history for turnout to be low. We’ll see by next week how this works out.

Campaign financials

This year’s candidates were required to file their final pre-election campaign financial reports with the State Board of Elections on October 25th. The reports cover the period from September 30th through October 21st. Here are some highlights of the local filings:

  • Mark Poloncarz raised $77,721, bringing his total for 2019 thus far to $658,046. He had an opening balance of $397,316 in January. Total spending was $269,218 for the most recent period, and $672,811 in all of 2019. Highlights of the most recent expenditures include $219,767 for TV ads and $18,600 for polling. The balance in his treasury as of October 21 was $382,952.
  • Lynne Dixon collected another $35,134; $410,931 all together in 2019 with an opening balance of $14,630.   Her campaign had $74,767 in recent expenses and has gone through $408,721 this year. Highlights for the recent filing included $62,500 for TV ads and $4,000 for polls. Stefan Mychajliw’s campaign committee donated $10,000. The balance remaining available on October 21: $16,840.
  • State Supreme Court candidate Diane Devlin raised another $27,324 and spent $190,468, of which $180,000 was for TV ads. Devlin has loaned her campaign $50,000. Total spent thus far is $233,108. She still had $10,156 in her campaign account as of October 21.
  • Supreme Court candidate Gerald Greenan raised an additional $16,479 and spent $81,200, including $73,610 for TV commercials. His total spending thus far in 2019 is $101,119. His campaign balance: $16,610.

Candidate appearances

I attended the League of Women Voters Election Forum in Amherst last week. The event was attended by a full complement of candidates for County Executive, two County Legislature seats, plus the Amherst town offices of Councilmember, Clerk, Highway Superintendent and Town Justice.

Both Mark Poloncarz and Lynne Dixon spoke at the event. No new ground was broken on issues previously identified in the two televised debates. Poloncarz continued to highlight his record over the past nearly eight years. Dixon mostly emphasized style over substance, spending little time talking about her ten year record in the Legislature or what specifically she would do differently than the incumbent if she is elected.

Dixon is a bit hamstrung by the fact that she has voted for Poloncarz’s proposed budgets as well as a variety of other matters proposed by Poloncarz over the years. That kind of mutes her criticisms.

I thought it was interesting that Dixon had traveled to the event by herself. I’m told that she was also unaccompanied to the debate at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute last week. I don’t know about her other campaigning.  Also interesting: when Republican Legislator Ed Rath made his presentation he stuck with discussing his own record, never offering a shout out to his legislative colleague Dixon, who was still in the room at the time.

I don’t see any excitement in the race for County Executive, which works fine for Mark Poloncarz, who is basically running to continue his administration. Dixon needed some sort of “shiny object” to attract greater attention to her challenge. She is good campaigner, but there is no shiny object in site.

No matter your choice, vote early, or vote late, but vote.

For Election Night analysis on November 5th, tune in to WBFO-FM, 88.7. I will be joining News Director Dave Debo and Warren Galloway to discuss the results.

Follow me on Twitter on Election Night or anytime @kenkruly

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