That’s the question posed by political observers from across the left-right spectrum.
Earlier this month Clerk Chris Jacobs and Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw both declined to run for County Executive this cycle. Since then, Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy has been advancing the candidacy of Assemblyman Ray Walter of Amherst.
Walter is an abrasive personality in local politics, popular among a certain right wing suburban angry guy demographic. But he is unpopular among moderates and independents, and an unpalatable option for the vast majority of Democrats.
Erie County is, of course, an overwhelmingly Democrat enrolled jurisdiction — which is why political operatives are so puzzled. For a Republican to win countywide, her or she must have a magnetic personality, be eminently likable, and appeal broadly across party lines.
Certainly the case could be made that Jacobs and Mychajliw fit that bill. Rather than turning to another moderate — like Lynne Dixon (who activists have been urging to enter the race), or even former Senator Mark Grisanti — Langworthy has backed perhaps one of the least competitive Republicans in a countrywide race.
Did Langworthy cut a deal with Poloncarz to run a non-contender for County Executive in exchanging for standing down any serious effort to retake the County Legislature? It seems unlikely, but at least two Democrat town chairs think so.
So much of politics — perhaps too much — comes down to who can produce and fund a more compelling 30 second TV spot in the week running up to the election. In that paradigm, Walters will inevitably lose to Poloncarz. But there are one or two Republicans who could still oust the untested first term Executive.