Even Lynne M. Dixon’s loudest cheerleaders acknowledge her underdog status as she campaigns for county executive this year.
They admit the Independence Party member running with Republican backing lacks the name recognition and powers of incumbency commanded by Democratic opponent Mark C. Poloncarz. And Erie County’s Democratic registration edge of about 135,000 voters doesn’t help either.
But Dixon said Wednesday she has raised more than $200,000 since declaring her candidacy in March, and feels the figure lends her the credibility to raise even more and prove competitive against Poloncarz.
“It says people are ready for change, and I will continue to work to raise the funds to get my message out,” she said. “I said all along I will raise the necessary money to get my message out, and I will.”
New York State’s revised political calendar resulting from the Capitol’s Democratic takeover has this year accelerated normal milestones like campaign finance reporting. Since Dixon faces an Independence primary challenge that her supporters say was orchestrated by Democrats, she was required to submit her totals next week.
But Dixon, a county legislator from Hamburg, had no qualms about an early discussion of her finances. She is now able to form a campaign team and concentrate on the digital communication effort her campaign is developing, with television ads later on.
Dixon also likes the sources of her campaign dollars: 500 individual donors and a median $100 donation, from 31 of the county’s 44 municipalities. And her main donor demographic centered on women ages 34 to 50, the same group she hopes will turn out for her on Election Day.
While Poloncarz estimated earlier this year it might take $1 million to mount an effective countywide campaign, Dixon said she is not concentrating on “any particular number.”
“I do know we’ve got $200,000 starting out the gate, and that’s a pretty good position to be in,” she said.
Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson said the campaign would not release contribution totals until the July 15 required date. He can wait that long because, unlike Dixon, he is not facing a primary. Anderson noted, however, the county executive was slated to substantially increase his treasury (reported at $445,000 on Jan. 15) at a Wednesday night fundraiser at the Blackthorn Pub in South Buffalo.
“It’s tough to comment on a filing we haven’t seen,” Anderson said. “We’ll be interested to see when it’s posted who is there.”
Now, however, Dixon’s campaign is using the positive financials to spin an equally positive aura to her effort. Political consultant Christopher M. Grant, who's working with Dixon, said the numbers show she should be taken seriously, and suspects the Poloncarz campaign thinks so, too.
“I think she has showed an energy and a buzz around her campaign that has not been seen in a while,” he said. “There is a different element of folks who are attracted to her campaign, and she is tapping into something very different here.”
Grant, who helped orchestrate Chris Collins’ 2007 Republican victory for county executive (and worked on his 2011 loss, too), said Dixon is so far sticking to her game plan. That includes painting Poloncarz as consumed by politics too liberal for Erie County voters, and unconcerned about significantly lowering taxes.
“While Mark is talking about the Paris climate accord and other esoteric issues to play to his base,” he said, “Lynne is talking about issues important to moms in West Seneca.”
He also believes the Dixon effort will depend on her reception in key suburbs like Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Hamburg and West Seneca – which have substantial Democratic populations that history shows can be persuaded by a Republican.
“She’s pitch-perfect for Cheektowaga, which is not a radical, progressive town,” Grant said. “When the Democrats get away and veer into this liberal nonsense, that’s when they get in trouble.”
Anderson countered that the Dixon campaign has “refused to accept the fact that Mark has lowered taxes.”
“We’ve seen this kind of attack before,” he said. ”We’ll continue to spread Mark’s message of lowering taxes and moving Erie County forward.”
Grant said television remains part of the Dixon strategy, but notes that $35,000 of her recent donations resulted from email requests.
“This campaign has pursued digital as its first strategy and it’s paying off,” he said, referring in part to videos Dixon has released through social media. “We need to be more nimble.
“Any campaign that spends 80 to 90 percent of its money on TV is in for a world of hurt,” he added.