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Poloncarz vs. Collins at St. Joe’s

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County executive candidates Chris Collins and Mark Poloncarz put on a much better show this morning at St. Joe’s Collegiate Institute than they did last week in the studios of WNED-TV. Both were aggressive, attacking each other’s positions and even each other’s integrity. Such was the tone that little jabs like these…

  • Poloncarz on Collins maintaining a low profile and agreeing to only two debates: “I think he’s afraid to answer questions.”
  • Collins on Poloncarz’s assertion that the county’s loss of 14,000 jobs since July 2008 is a rebuke of the Collins administration: Poloncarz is ” a chronic exaggerator.”
  • Poloncarz on Collins’s budget for last year: “He’s hiding money.”
  • Collins on that assertion: “Saying it’s so doesn’t make it so, especially when it isn’t so.”

…provoked whispered conversation and gasps among the audience.

The last (“12 words I hope Mr. Poloncarz will remember” Collins said, or words to that effect) was one of two obviously set pieces that Collins deployed during the debate, which took place in the St. Joe’s gymnasium before about 700 people. The other was a sobriquet with which Collins tried several times to lasso Poloncarz, with little success: He claimed that Poloncarz wanted to be “czar” of Erie County, because Poloncarz advocates merging IDAs and reducing the number of municipal tax assessors countywide. (Collins also claimed that Poloncarz wants to eliminate volunteer fire companies, prompting Poloncarz to respond, “He lied to you,” which drew another audible reaction from the crowd.) If it seemed odd that the small-government candidate, Collins, would berate his opponent for advocating government consolidation, well, call it evidence that Collins loves the game he says he never plays: politics.

Both candidates  clearly love the game, and both performed well in the debate. As was the case last week, Poloncarz was the more composed of the two—he didn’t flinch at Collins’s attacks, wasn’t baited into . This week Collins displayed a little more of irritability, even mugging a “That’s BS” reaction when Poloncarz once again referred to a Buffalo News article in which Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson indicated that the Collins administration had not yet (as of September 17) contacted the team about beginning lease renewal negotiations. (The same question about the future of the Bills in Erie County was asked in last week’s debate; there was little new ground covered today.) In that regard, and in the fact that he once again proved himself an equal to Collins—not a “long shot,” not “desperate,” as the Collins campaign has repeated, mantra-like, for weeks—perhaps Poloncarz fared slightly better than his opponent.

But, of course, these kids don’t vote. And Collins performed well enough for his base of supporters. It couldn’t be much closer.

Fun note: One of the ground rules of the debate was that neither campaign was allowed to record video of the event. Nonetheless, just after the debate started, Collins campaign spokesman Stefan Mychajliw appeared with a camcorder and a tripod. When an employee for St. Joe’s approached Mychajliw and said the debate’s organizer wanted him to stop, Mychajliw refused, saying the rule about video was not included in a letter of invitation. Here’s Stefan with his camera:


  • John

    Rules schmules! Apparently the Collins campaign feels that rules are for everyone else. Typical.