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Poloncarz defends his involvement in Buffalo School Board race

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz defended Wednesday his involvement in a Buffalo School Board election race, saying he supports Hope R. Jay in the North District because she is a friend who has a child-advocacy background and is running in the district where he lives.

“I’m not involving myself in any other race,” he said. “I don’t live in those districts.”

Poloncarz also defended the fact that his special assistant, Joseph P. McMahon, has played an active role in trying to get Jay’s opponent, incumbent Jason M. “Jay” McCarthy, knocked off the May 3 ballot.

In a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board, the county executive said McMahon’s work was voluntary and on his own time, although he supports McMahon’s efforts to have McCarthy removed.

McCarthy survived a ballot challenge in court Wednesday.

Poloncarz also raised eyebrows this week when a voice mail surfaced in which he warned School Board President James M. Sampson that it was likely he had numerous fraudulent signatures on his petition because he and McCarthy used the same petition carrier.

Sampson, who is running for re-election in the West District, was unsuccessful Wednesday in getting his name restored to the ballot.

Poloncarz said he called the board president because Sampson is chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority and the two of them have a good working relationship. Although Poloncarz is not involved in the West District race, he said, he wanted to call Sampson about a likely challenge to his petitions. “I like Jim,” he said. “If I lived in his district, I’d probably vote for Jim.”

Sampson and McCarthy are aligned with the board’s current five-member majority.

Jay has strong union support and does not support longer school days or a longer school year or expansion of charter schools. When asked whether he shares her views, Poloncarz replied, “The only time you agree with someone 100 percent, when someone is running for office, is when you’re the person running for office.”

He touted Jay’s background as a former social worker and assistant district attorney in the Erie County Domestic Violence Unit. He also said she has done good legal work as an attorney and is a single parent with a child in the Buffalo Public Schools. “I know she truly does care,” Poloncarz said, “and that’s why I’m supporting her.”