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COMMENTARY

Politics Column had it right on Dixon poll

It took a while for the Politics Column to catch up with a June 19 story in Investigative Post. That’s when the local website’s political reporter, Geoff Kelly, referred to a June 17 story in The Buffalo News reporting results of a poll conducted by GOP county executive candidate Lynne Dixon’s campaign. Not surprisingly, the results indicated a close race.

The News handled the poll story carefully. Because of its source, it was not trumpeted on Page One but inside. It also emphasized that the Dixon campaign paid for the poll in a way that warned readers to “take it with a grain of salt.”

Investigative Post, however, headlined its story: “Lynne Dixon’s misleading poll.” It then went on to claim that the survey was really a "push poll," so-called because it pushes out information a campaign wants voters to know about.” The story quoted three people asked if they would still vote for incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz if they knew he hired a rapist to head the Department of Social Services (referring to former Commissioner Al Dirschberger and his recent conviction on rape charges in Albany).

But The News had previously reviewed the poll’s questions, which were straightforward, consisted of only “who will you vote for?” queries, and contained no references to rapists. If it had, The News would have ignored the poll.

Dixon campaign consultant Chris Grant confirmed that some potential voters were asked a question about rapists. But it and other leading questions stemmed from a second poll for internal use, not the one the campaign released publicly and filed with the Board of Elections.

“We did one poll to release publicly and then did a separate survey for internal campaign use that we did not release,” he said.

Indeed, The News reported its story on the straight questions it reviewed, and not on the leading questions upon which Investigative Post claimed the story was based.

“When the region’s leading daily newspaper presents the poll without closely analyzing its legitimacy and calling it what it is,” Investigative Post wrote, and then depicted a Dixon campaign tweet touting The News story about the poll.

Kelly said that he stands by his story.

“I look forward to reading this second poll when it’s filed with the state board of elections, within 48 hours of its reference in your column,” Kelly responded, referring to his interpretation of requirements for filing of polls released to the public.

But John Conklin, spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said election law points to no need for the Dixon campaign to release the internal poll.

“I don’t believe they have the obligation to release the results of the second poll,” Conklin said, because the campaign did not make public any of the second poll’s data.

Point is: People make mistakes. The Politics Column must occasionally run a correction.

Not this time. The News correctly handled the Dixon poll story.

•••

Nate McMurray is back with a Wednesday press release on official “Nate McMurray for U.S. Congress” letterhead. The Democrat who narrowly lost his congressional bid to incumbent Republican Chris Collins in 2018 appears to proclaim his return for 2020.

McMurray targeted Republican Stefan Mychajliw, the county comptroller and potential GOP candidate, for “misuse” of an official “whistleblower hotline” to report undocumented immigrants.

“This is exactly the type of corruption that hurts the hard-working people of Western New York, but it comes as no surprise from Rep. Chris Collins’ longtime apprentice,” McMurray said.

The little known Democrat came within about 1,000 votes in 2018 of defeating a powerful incumbent in New York’s most Republican district.

Now the action shifts to the GOP side, with as many as seven Republicans exploring a candidacy – including Collins, who is scheduled for a February trial on insider trading charges. A Republican without the baggage of a federal indictment, however, could prove a far different story in 2020.

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