Jacobs declines to run, as “Draft Dixon” effort heats up

Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, thought to be the GOP’s strongest challenger to incumbent County Executive Mark Poloncarz, has declined to run for higher office this year.

“It’s just not the right time for me,” Jacobs is quoted as saying to the Buffalo News. 

The announcement comes just a week after County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw announced that he would step aside for Jacobs to run. Mychajliw was roundly criticized by party operatives for his aggressive posture with Jacobs, a favorite son of the local Republican party.

While establishment figures are advancing the potential candidacy of Assemblyman Ray Walters of Amherst, grassroots activists have been attempting to persuade County Legislator Lynne Dixon to run. Dixon is a registered Independent who is popular among both Republicans and moderates.

Walters’ candidacy is built on the theory that an “attack dog” who is willing to engage aggressively with the Poloncarz Administration’s record, would be most likely to yield a GOP win against an untested first term Executive.

Others say that Walters’ brash style and bullish posture are turn offs to moderate voters and Independents — who are critical constituencies for any Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democrat enrolled jurisdiction, like Erie County. They say that likability, charisma, and an agreeable temperament are far more valuable political assets than a simple willingness to attack one’s opponent.

Politicians who are able to attract large numbers of voters from the opposing party’s membership is far more rare a skill set.

Local Republicans have been encouraging Legislator Lynne Dixon to run for County Executive this year.
Local Republicans have been encouraging Legislator Lynne Dixon to run for County Executive this year. She is pictured above at the Eden Corn Festival.

Dixon was first elected to the Legislature in 2009, and ran on a platform of reducing the size of the legislative body and eliminating district offices. She is in her third term and serves as Chairwoman of the Health & Human Services Committee. She is vice chair of the Public Safety Committee, the Government Affairs Committee, and the Minority & Women Business Enterprise Committee.

Her biography on the county’s website offers some insight into what a campaign for County Executive would sound like:

Her focus remains on providing residents with quality services while holding the line on taxes. Legislator Dixon is committed to maintaining the county’s infrastructure, advocating that investments be made in roads and bridges to resolve issues now before they become more costly down the road. Among her outreach efforts, Legislator Dixon supported and has promoted the Yellow Dot program to aid accident victims who may not be able to relay their medical needs; Silver Alert initiative to locate missing adults; and the Cyber-bullying Law, which focuses on protecting youth. She also hosts community meetings throughout the district to meet directly with residents to discuss any concerns they may have, as well as providing Boater Safety Courses and Car Seat Checks. Each year she partners with local schools for the Valentines for Veterans program to thank our servicemen and women for their sacrifice. For four years, Legislator Dixon has organized the Prom Dress Drive to provide free gowns to local girls.

That sounds like a solid good government narrative if I ever heard one — complete with the endearing Prom Dress Drive story — that makes for a candidate that Erie County voters would be quick to elect.

Dixon is well known the area with name recognition that surpasses any of her colleagues on the County Legislature. She graduated from Williamsville North High School. After attending college at West Virginia University, she returned to the area and has worked as a journalist for over 22 years — including as a sports reporter on WGR and as an anchor at WGRZ.

She has lived in the Village of Hamburg with her husband, Tim, for over 20 years. She has a deep network of relationships in the region that cannot be discounted.
She has lived in the Village of Hamburg with her husband, Tim, for over 20 years. She has a deep network of relationships in the region that cannot be discounted.

Some political observers say that her “immense likability, independent style, and down to earth charm” make her an even more competitive candidate than either Jacobs or Mychajliw, who are both seen as ambitious in a way that Dixon is not. And they think the contrast with Poloncarz — who is seen as arrogant, aloof, standoffish, and lacking personality — will play very advantageously in the general election.

Dixon is the recipient of the Tim Russet Award and the Best of Gannett Award for her journalism. She has also been recognized by the New York State Broadcasters Association and the Associated Press.

Her charitable work includes serving on the Board of Directors for the Western New York Chapter of Meals on Wheels, and is a founding member of the local chapter of the Make a Wish Foundation, according to the county website. She is also a member of the Erie County Board of Health.

Lynne Dixon, a registered Independent, has caucused with Republicans since 2010 when she was first elected to the County Legislature.
Lynne Dixon, a registered Independent, caucuses with Republicans. She was elected decisively three times to an overwhelmingly Democrat enrolled district.

Many Republican operatives think that Lynne Dixon’s candidacy would help the party make inroads with women voters and further cultivate the moderate Republican brand that has become the Erie County Republican Party’s saving grace in recent years. Countywide elections cannot be won by running a staunchly conservative ideologue with an abrasive style, the thinking goes.

Dixon’s legislative district includes Lackawanna, which is thought to be the County Executive’s political base. Her popularity, name recognition, and familiarity with voters there could create an intense battleground in his own backyard.

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