Turn on television this campaign season, and the battle between Alice Kryzan and Chris Lee for a seat in Congress is difficult to miss.
But while the airwaves are local, the ads are not. Federal campaign finance records indicate that much of the money paying for them originates almost 400 miles away, in Washington, D.C.
For Kryzan, ads sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are far outpacing anything she is producing on her own.
The better-financed Lee, meanwhile, has benefited from some spots bought by the Republican National Congressional Committee.
But the intensity with which both parties are focusing on the effort to succeed Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, underscores the importance the 26th Congressional District holds on the national level.
Both sides, moreover, paint their own picture of the money flowing into Western New York from the nation's capital.
"The [Democratic committee's] infusion of cash is a huge special interest; every special interest under the sun has gone to the [Democratic committee]," said Nicholas A. Langworthy, Lee's campaign manager.
"She can't have her cake and eat it, too," he added, referring to Kryzan's pledge not to accept campaign contributions from "special interests."
Anne Robinson Wadsworth, Kryzan's spokeswoman, points out that Lee accepts money not only from national Republicans, but also from the special interests that her candidate avoids. Those same dollars then finance the ads sponsored by his campaign.
While Kryzan rebuilds her treasury after a bruising Democratic primary, the national ads have staved off the Lee assault until the candidate could air her own -- including one that debuted last week, Wadsworth said.
"Chris Lee's negative ads are not from the [Republican committee]; they're from Chris Lee, after he said he would run an issues-based campaign and not engage in mudslinging," she said. "I suspect his polling looks like what our polling looks like -- and he should be running scared."
According to Federal Election Commission records, the Democrats' committee so far has spent slightly more than $302,000 in the 26th District, including about $15,000 on behalf of Jon Powers, its preferred candidate in the Democratic primary.
Since then, it has dropped about $287,000 on Kryzan. Langworthy said his research indicates the much better financed Democratic committee is advertising in about 50 districts nationwide, while its cash-starved Republican counterpart is up in only two.
He also acknowledged the Republican committee spent about $80,000 on an early ad for Lee, who has no problem accepting contributions that Kryzan labels as products of special interests, especially from organizations he considers allies.
"Some pro-business [political action committees] and groups are involved in Chris' candidacy and want to see his philosophy brought to Washington," Langworthy said. "It's all public record, and there's nothing wrong with that."
The Lee campaign, however, has criticized Kryzan and the Democratic committee for ads accusing the Republican's former company of creating jobs in China. As recently as Thursday's congressional debate in the studios of WNED, Lee maintained that Enidine Inc.'s investment, which served the Chinese market, also created jobs in Orchard Park.
"These baseless attacks are attempts to divert attention from the fact that the Democrats' hand-picked candidate [Powers] lost the primary and they have nothing positive to say about liberal trial attorney Alice Kryzan," said Andrea Bozek, Lee's spokeswoman.
Wadsworth said the Kryzan campaign relied on the Democratic committee immediately after the Sept. 9 primary while she raised money and hired staff. Last week, Kryzan began airing her own spot, reminiscent of the "take it somewhere else" ad widely credited with helping her win the Democratic primary.
The spokeswoman said the Democratic committee's involvement underscores the importance national Democrats put on the Kryzan candidacy but acknowledged the local campaign may have gone a different route.
"It is not necessarily an ad we would have posted," Wadsworth said.