Some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

Aside from the election for Erie County Executive, the 2019 local elections were generally no-drama events. So enjoy your upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays, because, politically speaking, we are all in for one hell of a ride in 2020.

Here are some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets:

  • Candidates for office in 2019 and their political committees were required to submit the last reports for the year on December 2nd. We’ll look here at the numbers for the race for Erie County Executive.
  • Incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz over the course of 2019 raised $698,318 and spent $1,020,499. He had $73,536 left in his campaign account after the election.
  • Republican candidate Lynne Dixon raised $598,347 and spent $604,600, leaving her just $8,376.
  • Talk on the street is that Dixon will join County Clerk Michael Kearns’ staff after her term as a county legislator ends on December 31.
  • The voter turnout, countywide, was 35 percent, which was up about 10 percent over 2015. Buffalo turnout, once again, was considerably lower than the numbers in suburban and rural areas.
  • 12.6 percent of the total vote came from early voting. Substantially more early voters were Democrats than Republicans. The majority of the early voters were women. More than half the early voters were 65 years-old or older. The vast majority of early voters were regular voters.
  • For the most part the early voting system in Erie County, which was much more substantial than anywhere else in the state, worked very well. Some of the 37 sites could have been better placed, and perhaps the number of sites could be reduced a bit in low potential voter total areas. Regardless, look for much greater use of the early voting system in 2020.
  • Reporting on some other campaign contributions of note, the Republican State Committee during the fall received huge contributions from two donors.   On September 6th Benjamin Landa contributed $107,300 to the State Committee. On October 10th Judith Landa contributed $107,300 to the Committee.
  • The contributions from Benjamin and Judith Landa were among the largest received by the State Committee in 2019. The only contribution bigger than theirs was $200,000 from then State Chairman Edward Cox last March. Nick Langworthy became Chairman in July. The contributions of Benjamin and Judith Landa were near the maximum amount permitted by law. Party or constituted committees may receive no more than $117,300 from any individual contributor in a calendar year; Cox’s contribution was to the Party’s “Housekeeping” account.
  • The Landas were past investors in the Emerald South Nursing Home, which was closed in January after being placed under receivership by the state Department of Health. Mark Poloncarz in the summer of 2018 criticized the operation of that facility.
  • Judith Landa in November of this year sued Mark Poloncarz and his Chief of Staff Jennifer Hibit for slander and libel concerning statements of Poloncarz criticizing the operation of the now-closed nursing home.
  • Robin Schimminger’s decision to retire after he completes his term as Assemblyman for the 140th District at the end of 2020 creates an open seat in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic by registration.
  • At this time the favorite for the Democratic designation is Democratic County Chairman and Board of Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner. Perennial candidate Kevin Stocker, now a Democrat, pretty much guarantees that there will be a Democratic primary for the seat. But there are others being mentioned. The list includes Kenmore Mayor Pat Mang, Tonawanda Town Councilmen John Bargnesi and Bill Conrad, and County Legislator Kevin Hardwick. There could be others from the City of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. Traditionally, Democratic Assembly nominations are settled by a vote of the party committee members in the district.
  • Zellner says that he will resign as Commissioner of the Board of Elections when he becomes a candidate. That will, in turn, require the selection of a new Democratic Commissioner. Mark Poloncarz’s chief of staff and recent campaign manager, Jennifer Hibit, is considered by some as the likely choice.
  • Michael Ranzenhofer’s decision to forgo re-election in the 61st Senate District will create an open seat that has more Democrats than Republicans. County Legislator Ed Rath will be at the top of most lists for the Republican nomination.