When Democrat Mark C. Poloncarz announced his bid for a third term as county executive last month, he rolled out all the advantages of incumbency: Three hundred supporters at party headquarters, glowing praise from Mayor Byron W. Brown, campaign signs, speeches and lots of hoopla.
Republican-backed Lynne M. Dixon took a far different approach later in the month. She revealed her candidacy to The Buffalo News in a Hamburg coffee shop, then made the rounds of radio and television the next day, all the while introducing herself in a laid-back video aimed at social media.
• Poloncarz the seasoned incumbent, rallying the Democratic establishment, ready to emphasize his accomplishments and spend the hundr of thousands of campaign dollars required to win in a big county such as Erie.
• Dixon the scrappy challenger from Hamburg, a single mother balancing the demands of a campaign and parenting four children. She emphasizes her Independence minor party affiliation but calls scant attention to her GOP backing in overwhelmingly Democratic Erie County.
With little money to start, she is expected to parlay her 22 years of experience as a radio and television journalist into a polished social media presence, hoping to attract the resources she ne to compete.
So far, both sides say they like where they are.
“Lynne’s video says something about her candidacy — it’s different,” said Christopher M. Grant, the Buffalo campaign consultant who produced the spot. “She’s the first woman candidate for county executive, she’s a single working mom, and she’s a registered Independent representing a Democratic district.
Grant thinks Dixon’s introductory video, set in a gracious living room as she tells her family’s story, is a hit. It tells the story of her late father and his Navy service during World War II, features a large brood of Dixon siblings, and dwells on sending her oldest child off to preschool on Sept. 11, 2001.
“In those two hours he was at school, everything changed,” Dixon says in the video. “But you know what was beautiful about it? Everyone came together. Democrats and Republicans alike. We don’t have leaders like that anymore. Instead, we have politicians that are pushing political agendas that are costing us jobs and opportunities. I think voters are sick of politicians like that.”
Grant, who serves on Republican campaigns around the country, said the video and two shorter companion pieces gained 43,000 views across various Internet platforms, with Facebook data showing its best viewership among women 35- to 54-years-old.
It all translates, Grant said, into $100,000 to $150,000 worth of free broadcast, newspaper and internet stories spurred by the video.
“She is formidable on TV; the camera loves her,” he said. “And she knows how to tell a story.”
“Were those paid for? How many Erie County voters watched?” he asked of the Dixon claims. “On any given day, Mark tweets and 2,000 people see it.”
“On the day I was sworn in as executive, the county’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent,” he said at his announcement, “and by the end of 2018 it was reduced to 3.9 percent, the lowest rate in more than three decades.”
Anderson and Hibit dismiss Dixon camp claims that Poloncarz is reacting to a strong start by his opponent. They say the county executive is campaigning by doing his job, will emphasize his role in attracting jobs to Erie County, and will unveil a future agenda in his State of the County address on March 27. It is expected to come across as a “where we’ve been and where we’re going” speech, they said.
In the meantime, Hibit and Anderson say Poloncarz will continue to embrace his social media presence by being ubiquitous on Twitter. And they are counting on having the money needed to fuel the traditional broadcast ads still considered essential to local politics.