Yesterday’s elections offered a handful of unexpected results, but incumbents mostly won. Turnout ticked up compared with 2015.
As projected here on August 13th, County Executive Mark Poloncarz was victorious, but his margin was smaller both in terms total votes and in percentages than in 2015. Lynne Dixon worked hard, but she offered no compelling reason for a change in leadership in County Hall. Poloncarz’s taking-care-of-business style worked just fine.
Poloncarz’s winning margin was 14,489; he carried 53.5 percent of the vote to Dixon’s 46.5 percent. Total turnout in the county was approximately 34.4 percent; turnout in the City of Buffalo was just 22.8 percent.
The Erie County Legislature’s Democratic majority stayed at seven of the eleven members. Democrat John Gilmour will take Dixon’s seat, while Democrat Jeanne Vinal replaces retiring Democrat Tom Loughran. Republican Frank Todaro defeated Democratic incumbent John Bruso in the 8th District.
The majority party will be composed of legislators who are very light in county government experience. Only new Democrat Kevin Hardwick has had more than two years at the Legislature; he has been there for 10 years. The other six members in the Democratic caucus will, as of January 1, have an average of less than one year in county government. On the other hand the three legislators of the Republican caucus who will return to office average 11 years of service, and will now be joined by Todaro.
Democrat Diane Devlin defeated Republican Gerald Greenan in the only contested election for State Supreme Court by a very small margin of less than 2,000 votes in the eight county Eighth Judicial District.
In Niagara County Republicans maintained control of the County Legislature. Niagara Falls elected a new mayor, Democrat Robert Restaino, who will replace the retiring Paul Dyster. Lockport Democratic Mayor Michelle Roman was re-elected to a full term as Mayor.
Orchard Park voters approved the addition of two members to the town board, beginning in 2021. The town became the third of five towns in Erie County to return to a five member town board as the Kevin Gaughan-promoted experiment in three member boards continues to be reversed. Alden and Evans still have three member boards, while Hamburg and West Seneca previously reverted to five member legislative bodies.
The Town of Tonawanda and Cheektowaga elected full slates of Democrats to town offices. Democrats won control of the Town Board in Hamburg. Republican Joseph Spino won a seat on the Amherst Town Board, although his margin of victory, 48 votes, will be subject to absentee votes and a final tabulation.
With only two contested elections out of 12 offices on the ballot in the City of Buffalo, turnout in the City was once again much lower than that of the rest of the county. Mark Supples made a try as the Republican candidate for Council in the Niagara District but was handily defeated by incumbent David Rivera. There was a token Republican candidate for Comptroller but the Party has essentially ceded the territory to the Democrats.
Democrats in the City of Buffalo regularly fails to turn out in anywhere near the proportions of Democratic turnout in the suburbs, which has had a negative effect on countywide and statewide candidates. Which the Republicans are very happy with.
It will take some further analysis, but it appears that the first use of the early voting system served more as a convenience for voters to be able to vote at a time and place other than their regular polling place on Election Day, rather than much of a stimulant for increased participation. There were a total of 205,313 voters in Erie County yesterday compared with 152,655 in 2015. While the total number of votes who voted early was 4.4 percent of total registered voters, another way of looking at the early voting numbers is that the nine day turnout produced nearly 13 percent of the actual election vote for 2019.
The early voting system operated well and produced 26,514 votes in Erie County, far more than all but one other county in the state. The fact that Erie County had many more voting locations than other counties (Niagara County only had two sites compared with Erie’s 37) contributed to the voting activity last week. The system passed its test, worked well, and will likely be much more promoted and used in 2020, with the presidential election dominating public attention.