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Dixon launches campaign ad as county executive election gets serious

You might say “preseason” has ended, and the real campaign for county executive officially begins Tuesday when Republican candidate Lynne M. Dixon unveils a new television ad.

Subscribing to the conventional wisdom that voters begin following politics after Labor Day, Dixon now launches a new 30-second spot on broadcast and cable television as well social media. And though incumbent Democrat Mark C. Poloncarz is expected to follow soon with his own television effort, Republicans say the Dixon ad signifies she is raising the kind of money needed to fuel a serious challenge.

“This says that the race is very close and that people are starting to pay attention,” said Dixon campaign consultant Christopher M. Grant, “and that people are hungry for something different.”

Dixon, an Independence member running with Republican and Conservative backing, breaks no new ground in the ad that debuts Tuesday. Grant said the spot, which settles into the “warm and fuzzy” category, reinforces themes that the Hamburg county legislator has emphasized since announcing her candidacy in February: She “cares about the right ideas,” is “doing the right things” and is “here to listen.”

“The message is that this candidate is independent, she is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and is a single mom intent on taking politics out of government,” he said. “So we are introducing her to the electorate at large with the promise she will address issues they care about.”

Grant would not reveal how much the Dixon campaign is spending on its initial television effort, but he promised the candidate will remain continuously on the air and on cable through Election Day on Nov. 5.

“Our fundraising has been strong,” he said, pointing to the $216,500 she reported on hand to the State Board of Elections in mid-July.

Still, Poloncarz maintains an almost 3-to-1 funding advantage to fuel his television message with $638,000 on hand. Grant acknowledges Dixon enters the race as the underdog on most levels, including finances.

“There’s no question Mark has the financial advantage,” he said. “So the campaign is going to have to continue raising money to make sure the message gets out.”

To that end, Dixon has scheduled a major fundraising event for Wednesday at Templeton Landing on the Buffalo waterfront featuring Rep. Elise M. Stefanik of Saratoga County. Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy labeled the young congresswoman a GOP “rising star” who has much in common with Dixon, the first woman to run as a major party candidate for Erie County executive.

Langworthy, who is also the New York State GOP chairman, is expected to play a significant role in the Dixon campaign as he attempts to demonstrate Republican competitiveness in a county where there are 91,059 more Democratic voters than Republican ones. His top communications assistant in the state party – veteran campaign operative Jessica Proud – is now working on the Dixon campaign, he said.

“She’s a real veteran with quite a resume,” he said, pointing to Proud’s experience in statewide campaigns as well as past county executive elections like Rob Astorino’s 2009 victory in Westchester County.

Poloncarz, meanwhile, has set no date for launching his television spots, though campaign manager Jennifer L. Hibit said they will debut “soon.” She also said that while the campaign recognizes most voters fail to focus on elections until after Labor Day, the county executive has been campaigning since he announced his candidacy for a third term back on Feb. 9.

“Not much has changed on that front. We’ve been in campaign mode for months,” she said.

Indeed, Poloncarz posted a Twitter spot over the weekend sponsored by his campaign in which he touted county efforts to revitalize the Bethlehem Steel site with new companies and new jobs.

“First we got Welded Tube there, then acquired 150 acres, next we built a bike path, and now TMP is coming,” he said, referring to new companies and new developments at the sprawling site. “This is just the start, the best is yet to come.”

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