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Polo Poloncarz Vs. Lexus Chris

It’s the last day of August and I find myself outbound on Route 33 expressway in rush hour traffic that’s as anxious to rush out of city as I am to get out my car and stop driving. I’ve been driving all day but here I am anyway surrounded by cars under a clear summer sky on my way to Mark Poloncarz for Erie County Executive campaign headquarters.

The weather here has been perfect for weeks and tonight is no exception, but that doesn’t seem to factor in the turnout for a volunteer meeting at campaign headquarters at Harlem and Genesee in Cheektowaga. The building is situated right next to a Rite-Aid, and it’s pretty much kitty corner to 1,000 acres of cemeteries divided by the 33.

It’s 5:30pm and volunteers are slowly amassing in what seems to be a former furniture showroom that proudly displays the three most dominant interior design elements in the free world: drop ceiling, fluorescent lights, reddish industrial carpet. If there’s a heaven and a hell, they both have waiting rooms exactly like this for people to ponder their lives. The Big Three.

Inside, there are a few desks reserved for campaign employees, a random assortment of tables and chairs that look like they were donated by an insolvent church. The bathrooms have to be opened by keys which are left in the handles, and the doors don’t lock from the inside. The ghosts of former wealth and vitality hang in the room and converse with old campaign lawn signs in the corner of the room for Poloncarz’s father, Charles.

But this is politics and politics is money and money for Poloncarz, compared with his well-heeled Republican opponent, Chris Collins, is tight. While Collins’ thus far has well over a million in his campaign coffers, Poloncarz is lucky to have a quarter as much.

What Poloncarz HQ lacks in interior charm, it makes up for in exterior frontage. The windows are covered in huge translucent Poloncarz banners, announcing itself to the four lanes of traffic outside on a stretch of Harlem Road that connects several well-populated first-ring suburbs to each other and connects everybody to the 33. It’s also directly under a major flight path for the airport, for whatever’s that worth these days.

The median demographic for the event is white, female, and 50 years old. At 30, I’m pretty sure I’m the youngest person in the room aside from two Poloncarz staffers. A quick survey of the crowd yields that most people are motivated to help the cause not out of passion for the democratic candidate, but because they loathe Chris Collins. Somewhere along the way, Collins has committed a transgression that is unforgiveable in Western New York: He’s put on airs, he thinks he’s better than everyone else.

The Poloncarz event, perhaps in effort to rebuff Collins’ various self-aggrandized refineries, serves pizza and Labatt Blue Light in cans. (Missed was a golden opportunity to serve wings and round-out another Big Three.) In true volunteer fashion, the three sheet pizzas were served at 5:45pm and gone by 5:55pm. The beer gift was a bit more giving.

And just at the moment when the pizza disappears, the talking begins in the middle of the room. In a baby blue Poloncarz polo shirt and khakis, Mr. Comptroller says his piece. Perhaps his campaign’s greatest hope lies in his ability to highlight his own track record of fiscal responsibility in office, and his plans for economic development, and then compare those to Collins’s legacy of reckless, costly lawsuits against everyone who disagrees, use of juked stats, and financial and political patronage for his inner circle. Poloncarz needs to be picking these ripe grapes right off the vine and swallowing the seed.

The other ace in the hole for Poloncarz is his focus on first-ring suburbs. As a Lackawanna boy, he must feel he can relate to and attract voters from the hard-hit, working-class towns that surround Buffalo. It certainly can’t hurt as a Polish-American that he’s set up such visible shop along the historical Polish corridor that extends east from Buffalo to Cheektowaga and out to Depew and Lancaster.

The youngest man in the room, Poloncarz staffer Ben Swanekamp, predicts that the winning candidate will require 145,210 votes from the 915,000 people who live in the county. Poloncarz declared with the muted enthusiasm of a gentle coach, “If the election were today, I win.”

aaron lowinger


  • bah

    Nothing to bing to the table other than the anti-Colins vote, that is a sad way to run a campaign. And the reality is if the vote was today, recent polls show, he would get clobbered.

  • Uncle Bluck

    Bah….The recent poll you are talking about was no poll at all. It was an unscientific online survey that anyone could access and vote.
    Read the various blogs on the local papers/publications and you will find overwhelming distrust for Collins much the same way it went for Corwinn and Antoine Thompson.
    Add to that the much larger Democrat registration in this county and it all adds up to your boy is going down and going down hard……

  • bah

    He’s not my boy stupid, but I guarantee he wins given the lack luster, almost non existant campaign of Mark’s. I know Mark and he is not a capable person for this job, let alone what he currently does. His inability to raise money is a huge indication of the public’s lack of support for him.

    I will bet very good money Collins crushes him at the end of the day.

  • Carmen Bartolotta

    If by lackluster, you mean that Poloncarz cannot saturate the airways with over exaggerations and outright lies, then yes, it is a lackluster campaign. Poloncarz may not be backed by the Spaulding Lake crowd, which so many of these rubes aspire to be, but he has a solid message and supports the middle class. He’s on our side of the issues and is far more capable than the current executive, who had his eye on the governorship not so long ago.

    As for inability to raise money, this is merely a case of big donors sitting on their money, as they are afraid to lose to an incumbent who is swimming in cash like the prostitute he is. If his message is so strong, why does he refuse to debate or even speak without a spokesperson? Be careful with your predictions and your money. I would have bet my house on Jane Corwin.

  • Bah

    Wrong again a large fund need not come from a few with a lot but you can get a lot from many. To my point he can not raise money because he has no underlying support. Plus give it a rest he is no man of the people. Collins suffers from a lot of bad traits but Mark is not the guy to beat him. No way, no how.

  • Farmer’s Daughter

    Bah —- If you take a look on the Erie County Board of Elections website you can view all campaign donations and from January 2011 through the present day Mark Poloncarz has a larger # of donors…but like Carmen mentioned in his post, middle class voters cannot afford to donate hundreds or thousands….Chris Collins is getting big money from may in his administration that are trying to keep their jobs….Mark is getting donations from middle class individuals, most of which can only afford $20, $30 or maybe $50
    The reality is, if Collins was so sure of himself he would agree to debate in public, but you see he is afraid because he never speaks for himself unless a press-writer tells him exactly what to say, when he is left to his own ideas he insults and offends almost everyone (Remember his comments about Sheldon Silver and his suggestion to a female in Albany that she could get a seat for a lap dance)….
    Mark Poloncarz doesn’t need bright lights and fancy commercials because when all is said and done word of mouth is a very persuasive and there are more common folk than millionaires, as long as they all get out and vote Mark will win the election hands down.

  • Tom

    Please do not bother bah with facts. It is absurd to praise a sitting politician for raising money, as bah does by implication. Collins has decimated the shared life we live as a community and ought to be driven out of office just for his contempt for libraries, art groups, parks, and other things that not-so-wealthy people need and hold important. Great column by aaron lowinger. Usual crappy right wing commenter in the comment section.

    I love bah’s assurance that we should reject Mark Poloncarz because bah knows him. Sure, an anonymous commenter on a blog: sounds like an expert to me!!!!

  • Bah

    My point was if he is the great politician you seem to believe he would have many many more 20 dollar donations to get his number way up. You people can not seem to read well.
    I do know himi,
    Why would that be a surprise is he above the public? Does he not walk up and down main street regularly, or used to. I have been at functions, yes dem functions, and when mark walks in there is no surge to see him. He sort of skirts around the room and is ignored by many of his peers.
    They put him up because the party believes Collins is unbeatable, otherwise there would have been a better candidate.

    Look fact this idiots Mark is going to lose. So piss and moan all you want but just because he is not Collins is not enough to carry the day.

  • Bah

    By the way Tom your are saying people with money do not support libraries, parks and the arts? You are one dim witted fool if you think that is the case and clearly you are out of the fund raising loop of almost every park library or art board who pursue and get
    Money from wealthy people to support these causes. Albright Knox mean anything to you?
    This paper draws idiots like flies to shit.

  • City Chick

    Having an ego is almost a prerequisite for being a politician. That’s no sin and almost a necesssity to handle the constant commentary about their performance and personal lives. I applaud Mr. Collins for making very tough decisions and while unpopular with almost everyone, most necessary. His performance may not be perfect but it is far superior to many before him. Be careful what you wish for in these tough economic times. Our city has fared better under his helm than most of the nation.

  • Collin’s wants lap dance again?

    Laura Z. comes up the aisle and now this is a very crowded situation here and so she looked at me and said, ‘I thought you were going to save me a seat,’ and I said, ‘Well, I told you to get here earlier,’ and Collins says, ‘If you want this seat you have to give me a lap dance”

  • Too dumb to be governor, good enough for Erie County though !!

    Speaking at the annual Erie County Republican Party fundraiser, Collins referred to Nostradamus’ prediction that three Antichrists would rise in conjunction with the Apocalypse, saying it’s generally accepted that the first was Napoleon, the second Hitler, and that he was “pretty sure” the third is Sheldon Silver, an orthodox Jew.

    “He’s the former shining light of the Republican Party, never mind the anti-Semitic content. It makes him look nuts, and it doesn’t add to the discussion.”

    “No one clapped. No one cheered. No one laughed,” said a Western New York Republican who was at the event. “I know I didn’t. I thought it was a little harsh to be calling someone an anti-Christ.”

    Through his spokesman, Collins said he had made a “poor joke” and extended his “sincerest apologies” to Silver.

    “While we may disagree strongly on policy matters, my statement had no place in our political discourse and I am truly sorry to both the speaker and to anyone else who I may have offended,” Collins said.

  • City Chick

    Like no one reading this column has ever made a sarcastic comment or put their foot in their mouth and regretted it. While a paid public official should be more circumspect, I can recount many time when I wish I could take something back. Come on now…

  • suburban guy

    well maybe he’ll get lucky and have a nazi sit on his lap, and keep his mouth shut

  • Peter A Reese

    I think Poloncarz needs to find a way to have more people meet Collins. That should be good for a 10 point swing. Maybe Mark should sponsor Meet the Chris coffee hours?