By Mark C. Poloncarz and Jeremy Zellner
Recently readers of this column were subjected to the personal opinion of Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo about Democrats “abandoning the working class” and the “ivory tower elitists” running the Democratic Party today.
Perhaps he is searching for relevance in a world that is leaving him behind, but as the targets of the chairman’s ill-informed piece we write to set the record straight and discuss who really stands for the hard-working men and women of Erie County.
As the Democratic Party chairman and Erie County executive, we are the sons of an autoworker and a steelworker, respectively. Our families instilled in us concepts like fair pay for an honest day’s work, equality for all, and service to our community – ideals that remain Democratic tenets today.
We stand with our union brothers and sisters everywhere, fighting for a stronger economy, wage and housing equity, workplace protections for workers and other bedrock Democratic principles. Contrary to Lorigo’s view, Democrats and real working-class families have ample common ground while the “ivory tower elitists” are actually finding their way to Lorigo’s home for political fundraisers benefitting his son.
Lorigo mentions a “sprint to the extremes,” but in reality he has remained stuck in the past as new ideas and concepts change the world around him. He appears unaware, or unwilling to admit, that local taxes have already been cut multiple times under the Poloncarz administration and by Mayor Byron Brown. He also willfully ignores local Democrat-led efforts to curb the opioid crisis, fight corporate welfare, ensure high-quality affordable health care for all and protect Medicare and Social Security.
Lorigo failed to note he vigorously opposed a community-developed plan to modernize the Erie County Medical Center emergency room. The project eventually passed with bipartisan support, will create hundreds of good-paying construction jobs and ensure Erie County residents have access to the best lifesaving medical care.
Furthermore, how can he claim the Conservative Party represents average New Yorkers when his party supported reducing taxes for the “one percent” while at the same time advocated for repealing workplace safety laws? Finally, he conveniently forgot to mention his party’s continued support of those who would divide us along racial and societal lines at a time when we must come together as one.
After 36 years in local politics, Lorigo’s myopia has worsened and his disconnect with real working families has grown. Lorigo may long for the days of President Ronald Reagan, when local Democrats sought the Conservative Party chairman’s support on bended knee, but today the people of Erie County expect principled leadership from their elected officials and party leaders. That is what we stand for in the Democratic Party – principled leadership working for the betterment of all.
Mark C. Poloncarz is Erie County executive. Jeremy Zellner is Erie County Democratic chairman.