Erie County executive candidates: Who’s running in Tuesday’s election

Lynne Dixon and Mark Poloncarz differ in vision, approach

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Local elections have never been as popular as the presidential election, but local government has a tangible impact on the local community.

Voters can impact the future of important local issues on Election Day Tuesday.

 In Erie County, open positions include Justice of the Supreme Court, County Legislator –– for several districts –– and County Executive. 

 On Tuesday, County Executive Mark Poloncarz runs for a third four-year term against County Legislator Lynne Dixon.

 County executive is the chief executive officer of the county government. Their responsibilities include supervising departments within county government as administrative head and handling the county’s budget as chief budget officer of the county. 

 We explained the major aspects of the candidates’ campaigns to help eligible students choose which candidate is right for them. 

Lynne Dixon

County Legislator

Dixon is representing the Republican, Independence, Conservative and Serve America Movement parties on the ballot. 

She has served in county legislature since 2009 and has represented a variety of communities. Dixon grew up in Amherst and was a WGRZ reporter for 12 years before her political career.  

Dixon said she is running for county executive because “taxes are too high” and the “government spends too much.”

Dixon criticizes Poloncarz for borrowing money for construction on county roads, bridges and parks which she says rests unspent. Dixon says she intends to do a “better job” with long-term planning and maintenance if she is county executive.

 Dixon said she will not push a political agenda if elected.

“I’m an independent and I don’t care about party labels or parties and politics,” Dixon said. “I only care about doing the right thing and the right ideas.” 

Dixon typically votes in accordance with her Republican colleagues, according to The Buffalo News.

Poloncarz criticized her for voting alongside former representative Chris Collins and attempted to associate her with Collins, even though some of her votes opposed Collins’, according to The Buffalo News.

Dixon says if the economy is “doing well” and the county begins to receive more sales-tax revenue than expected, she will support a property tax relief, according to The Buffalo News

Dixon opposes recreational marijuana and would not “opt in” to legalizing it if the state does. Still, she supports the decriminalization of recreational marijuana and the legalization of medical marijuana.

Dixon opposes implementing a five-cent fee for paper bags after the plastic bag ban in March. 

Internal Republican polling indicates Dixon has a “surprisingly high” level of support although her campaign has roughly half the money of Poloncarz’s, according to Republican leaders. 

Mark Poloncarz

County Executive

Poloncarz is representing the Democratic and Working Families parties on the ballot. 

He is the current county executive, now in his second term. Poloncarz grew up in Lackawanna and served as county comptroller for six years before serving as county executive. 

Poloncarz is seeking a third term and his ongoing goals include “a balanced county budget, without raising taxes; better parks and libraries; a stronger [Erie County Medical Center] and a new clinic; and the best economic climate in decades.”

Poloncarz proposed a tax increase in his first budget in 2013, which was rejected by the county legislature. He has not proposed a tax-rate increase since. 

Although tax rates have not increased under Poloncarz, tax levy –– the actual amount of money raised –– has increased by 24%. 

He boasts lower tax rates and increased investments in “county roads, parks, libraries and cultural organizations.”

Dixon criticizes Poloncarz for taking “too long” on construction projects and not using all the money he allocates to those projects. 

Under Poloncarz, roughly 60% of borrowed money that was allocated to maintenance and improvements of park shelters, restrooms and roads was unused, according to The Buffalo News.

Poloncarz said the figures must be due to negligent bookkeeping practices by the counties' Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, according to The Buffalo News.

Poloncarz does not have a definitive stance on recreational marijuana. 

Poloncarz has supported banning plastic bag distribution by retailers “in many situations,” according to The Buffalo News. He expressed support for a five-cent fee for paper bags, an initiative the county legislature has not acted upon. 

 Julian Roberts-Grmela is a features editor and can be reached at julian.grmela@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @GrmelaJulian.