Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. is furiously ratcheting up his fundraising efforts in a sign he is preparing to challenge Democratic incumbent Mark C. Poloncarz for county executive next year.
New campaign finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections indicate the Republican's coffers have shot from a depleted account in 2017 to more than $100,000 in basically the past three months — a pace of about $1,200 per day. Though much more money must be raised to compete against an entrenched incumbent enjoying all the advantages of incumbency, Mychajliw said this week he is “very seriously” eyeing the county executive contest.
"If I decide to go, I want to be in a position of strength," he said.
Every indication, however, points to the comptroller as ready to compete for the county's top job. He even noted a past prediction from Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, who said at Mychajliw’s January swearing-in ceremony that he expected to participate in a similar event for him two years in the future.
Now Mychajliw has become increasingly vocal in his criticism of Poloncarz, pronouncing him a "vulnerable, out-of-touch, liberal extremist."
"He’s more interested in banning plastic bags, the Paris climate accords and allowing grown men to use the same bathroom as my daughter than anything else," Mychajliw said. "I think Mark has totally checked out.
"I’m telling friends and supporters to stay tuned," he added.
Poloncarz also recorded a successful fundraising cycle with almost $400,000 in his treasury. He is expected to seek a third term, and appears ready to take on Mychajliw. On Wednesday he cited state Department of Labor statistics showing the addition of 28,200 jobs in Erie and Niagara counties since 2012 as proof of the commitment he made to grow the economy during his first campaign.
"I will continue to focus on growing jobs and making sure people have opportunities," he said, ticking off a list of accomplishments such as dealing with snowstorms and negotiating a lease that kept the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park.
And he rejected Mychajliw’s description of his "liberal" positions, firing back in what could prove to be the first salvo of the 2019 campaign.
"I disagree," he said. "When you represent a community as diverse as Erie County, you have the opportunity to speak up on national issues."
Mychajliw has ridden a fundraising merry-go-round in recent years after running in a special election and two regular elections in the past five years. In each race he spent virtually all of his campaign treasury, he noted, forcing him to start from scratch at the start of each term. This year’s fundraising events featured a cocktail party at East Aurora’s Roycroft Inn and a picnic.
The comptroller noted he has more money on hand than Poloncarz at this point in 2010. Poloncarz, a former county comptroller, eventually challenged and beat Republican Chris Collins in 2011.
"We have far more cash a year and a half out than he did four months before the  election," Mychajliw said.
Notable contributions to Mychajliw include $5,000 from real estate developer Nick Sinatra, whom Poloncarz targeted earlier this year for failing to pay almost $1.3 million in local taxes.
"It’s disappointing," Poloncarz said in April of the delinquent taxes. "I don’t know the reason, but we are moving ahead and will be pursing foreclosures on properties that remain unpaid."
Sinatra eventually paid the taxes owed, but at the time denounced the county executive’s criticism as “a political smear campaign” against him “because I’m a Republican.”
Other $5,000 donors to Mychajliw included businessmen Dan Gernatt and Victor Rice. Charles Joyce, the Wellsville oil field equipment executive and member of the Republican National Committee, gave $10,000.
Poloncarz also recorded several $5,000 donors, and $10,000 each from accountant Philip Tantillo, the Lippes Mathias law firm, the Harris Beach law firm’s political committee, All American Home Care of Rochester, and the Erie County Democratic Committee.