If the campaign sparks engulfing Republican Chris Lee and Democrat Alice Kryzan are any indication, their contest for a seat in Congress is proving an official barn burner.
With less than two weeks before Election Day, the frantic pace underscores a race marked by intense politicking, heavy spending and recognition by both national parties of their hefty stake in the seat of retiring Republican Thomas M. Reynolds.
The fever pitch surrounding the campaign includes:
* Today's appearance of Rep. Rahm Emmanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with Kryzan in Williamsville.
* The Lee campaign's new charges of "hypocrisy" in connection with her influx of donations from political action committees and "special interests."
* Lee's major contributions of personal funds to the campaign, as his own money nears the 50 percent mark of all contributions.
* The possibility of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton appearing for Kryzan next week.
Emmanuel, a onetime aide to former President Bill Clinton, is leading the charge for what is expected to prove a major gain for House Democrats this year. The fact that he is here at this stage of the campaign, observers say, demonstrates the interest Democrats have in the race. And it follows similar appearances in the area for Lee by Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Roy Blunt.
A source close to Kryzan, meanwhile, said it is hoped Clinton will stump for her also, possibly next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, major campaign dollars are flowing into broadcast outlets as the race enters its final weeks. Lee assumed the offensive this week, charging Kryzan broke a promise not to accept money from PACs and special interests, and raising the topic in a new ad that debuts today.
Lee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission indicate Kryzan has taken $69,000 in PAC contributions, $14,150 from lobbyists and other Washington insiders, while Emmanuel's committee has pledged more than $1.5 million in Buffalo and Rochester advertising for the remainder of the campaign.
But while Lee maintains that Kryzan noted during a Geneseo debate on Sept. 2 that anyone taking PAC and special interest money could not be "independent," she sees nothing wrong with taking campaign money from like-minded groups.
Anne Robinson Wadsworth, Kryzan spokeswoman, said Lee picked up on a Washington publication that incorrectly reported she would not accept those funds. She said Kryzan has accepted money from the Women's Political Caucus, Planned Parenthood, New York League of Conservation Voters, Emily's List and several unions because she believes in their causes.
"That's just not true," Wadsworth said of the Lee charge. "She said she would not be influenced by them. But if she already has a record of supporting their mission, she would welcome that support."
Wadsworth turned the tables on Lee, accusing him of accepting contributions from corporate special interests and "Big Oil," which a Lee spokesman defended as consistent with the candidate's pro-business views.