County Executive Debate Takeaway

14 Oct

First of all, shame on WGRZ, WIVB, and WKBW for not interrupting their scary-good primetime schedule to fulfill their duty as FCC licensees of the public airwaves to broadcast the sole televised debate in this important election. Thanks to WNED for doing just that.  Channel 2 has the video up, but it’s broken up into multiple pieces, so I’m not going to embed them here.

Yes, I’m biased, but I can’t fathom a way in which someone can argue with a straight face that Chris Collins won the debate last night. The reason? Discipline. Knowing Mark Poloncarz, I know that, when it comes to facts and details, he is disciplined and knowledgable. He was prepared, he was confident, and he thought fast on his feet. By contrast, I don’t perceive Collins as being a disciplined campaigner. I think he disregarded the advice of the sycophants with whom he surrounds himself, and that he crossed the line into arrogance. He seemed unprepared, it was easy for Poloncarz to poke “[his] opponent” – whom he never named – with a stick and get a reaction.

Collins was the sweaty Nixon of 1960 with shifty eyes and a bad demeanor. But beyond the appearance, he was substantively disingenuous. The Twitter stream virtually howled with laughter when he alleged that he was “working with” the libraries.

Both campaign themes came out, though. Poloncarz portrayed Collins as out-of-touch with average, middle-class and poor western New Yorkers, as a guy who goes out of his way to vindictively harm the less fortunate and help his wealthy friends. Collins accused Poloncarz of “promising anything to anyone” and being beholden to the unions.

The big loser of the night, aside from Collins, was the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy. He was given about 3 questions, and every single one of them was about campaign finance. Seriously, is that all he cares about? Politics is about more than just how much a candidate raises, and from whom. It’s about ideas and governing. It’s about competence and the best interests of the people. Or, at least, it should be. McCarthy, however, sees politics as a sports event where a team is on offense or defense – winning or losing. He shouldn’t have been there to ask those questions, even if he did embarrass Collins with the Harris Beach / pay for play question, which Collins tried (and failed) to dodge no fewer than three times.


Collins’ accusations that Poloncarz just wants to spend were, however, untrue. And Poloncarz had the facts right on the tip of his tongue to prove it. Collins, meanwhile, proved his “job creation” bona fides by listing all the county jobs he eliminated. Say what you want, but those people spent their salaries in the local economy and paid local taxes. Now? Not so much.

Collins tried to personally insult Poloncarz on two occasions. First, he accused Poloncarz of wanting to be a “czar”, not a county executive, because Poloncarz wants to hire a Deputy CE who will be in charge of job creation. I think his use of “czar” was because (a) it’s a conservative code word for “Obama” and “evil”; and (b) frankly, I think it was an unintentional ethnic slur. Poloncarz is Slavic, Czar is a Slavic construct of “Caesar”. Secondly, Collins referenced a video that Poloncarz took of the dilapidated restrooms at Wendt Beach to rebut Collins’ claim that the county-run parks are in great shape – he called it “creepy”. Here it is. It’s grainy, shaky, and a more mundane version of the Blair Witch Project, but it’s not “creepy”. Furthermore, Collins claims it looked as it did because it was undergoing construction. We’ll go check and see how that construction is coming along, K?


Six Sigma? Poloncarz said the savings can’t be quantified – and the entire program is based on metrics. While Collins touted all the people he’s fired, Poloncarz said that some agencies are too big, some are too small, and we have to aim for efficient and responsive government, not mere firings.

Unfortunately, no one asked – and no one talked – about regionalism.

Here are some real-time reactions / interpretations of what happened:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124661869813309440″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124661565483003905″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124661426907394049″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124661371097972736″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124661216214908928″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124661061147308032″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124660169002074113″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124659038121230336″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124659439700684801″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124657526741540864″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124656270354558978″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124656110761283584″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124655601635688449″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124655494710312960″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124653126799196160″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124652758442844160″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124652616927023104″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”!/buffalopundit/status/124652014788554752″%5D

This was the sole televised debate, and Poloncarz had been asking for three.  Collins was reluctant to even do this one – this was supposed to be a radio debate. The League of Women Voters and WNED figured that they might as well televise it, and I’m told Collins’ people went ballistic. Collins doesn’t come across well. He’s not a people person. We now know why he and the Lees and Corwins of the world don’t do retail politicking and rely instead on money, speeches, TV ads, and Limbaughesque soundbites – they suck at connecting with people. It’s hard to do, after all, when you sequester your life among other millionaires, sharing your millionaire problems with your million-heir friends. In the end, the League basically told Collins’ people that they were going to hold the debate, and Collins can either participate, or Poloncarz will get a free hour of TV.

I don’t honestly recall whether Collins and Keane held a televised debate, and I haven’t checked the archives to see. If it existed, it wasn’t memorable. Keane was an abominable, horrible candidate. Collins was the fresh face with the “like a business” bill of goods. See how Corwin crumbled against Hochul, despite all her money? These people cannot win when given a credible challenge. Poloncarz can connect with regular people – union workers, middle-class – people who work for a living and live paycheck to paycheck.  People who see that their lives are harder and less hopeful than previous generations’. People who rely on county services for a good quality of life. Or for healthcare. Or for food. Or a roof over their head.  Make no mistake – that Siena poll was accurate. It may not have predicted turnout, which the Republicans will try and suppress in the city and lift in some suburbs, but it accurate reflects how likely voters think about the candidates and the issues. Poloncarz is putting up a great fight, and he’s working hard. Last night, he showed a wider audience who he is, and Collins revealed who he is.

Three weeks to go. Three weeks to victory?

6 Responses to “County Executive Debate Takeaway”

  1. Tom Dolina October 14, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    The worst part of the debate was the candidates being asked to “say something” nice about their opponent. Neither could come up with a credible answer. “He’s a bipedal organism who successfully exchanges oxygen for cabon dioxide, thereby ensuring the circle of life” would have been my response…

  2. Jesse October 14, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    “Last night, he showed a wider audience who he is, and Collins revealed who he is.”

    Unfortunately, no one noticed.

    I don’t think Republicans really have to try to suppress the vote in the city, and outside there it’s basically a simple question of whether or not you’re in a public employee union.

    What have you said before: 90%+ of the county operations are state mandated and that we should just do away with the legislature?  I’m for that.  I don’t see how the CE race is even remotely interesting.  And I’m interested in local politics.  Imagine how Jane the hair dresser or Joe the lanscaper feels.

    I do think it’s funny to see village DPW vs. town Highway doing political sign fights (tearing each other’s out) in East Aurora, though.

  3. Ward October 14, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I had no expectation of unbiased discussion in this post, so I was not disappointed.

    My takeaway: Collins is doubtless paying a decent dollar to Stefan Mychajliw to flack his campaign, but Poloncarz is getting the same services (ostensibly) for free from Alan. That shows solid fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of his relatively thin campaign resources.

    Good one, Mark. Maybe you can put Peter Anderson on half-time?

  4. Jacob October 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    Re: “Erie County is out of the hospital business except for the $3+ million it pays to ECMC subsidies & loan service”

    It’s actually AT LEAST $16.2 million per year for eternity or until ECMCC decides to re-negotiate. Was that put to the truth test? Also, it sounds to me that Poloncarz will prioritize spending to areas where it is NEEDED most, not like Collins who spends it where HE HE HE wants.

  5. Kevin J. October 15, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Ward, if Alan offers an opinion supported by fact, why should it be unbiased?

    I had no expectation of informed, sensical comments from Ward in this post, so I was not disappointed.

  6. Carmen Bartolotta October 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    That’s what I get from Poloncarz, not more spending but different priorities. How about not giving millions in tax breaks to help your friends shift their business to a different area of the county?

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