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Poloncarz defeats Dixon, wins third term as Erie County executive

Tom Dinki
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz won a third term in office Tuesday, defeating Republican-backed challenger Lynne Dixon.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz won re-election Tuesday, defeating challenger Lynne Dixon to win his third term in office.

Poloncarz, a Democrat, won 53.5% of the vote to Dixon's 46.5% in unofficial results from the Erie County Board of Elections.

"Today, the people of Erie County have spoken on a direction they want their community to go," said Poloncarz as he opened his victory speech. "Thank you to all who believed in our message of moving Erie County forward. Because of your belief in our work, and the direction we are taking this county, we've been sent back to complete the job we started."

Credit Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News
Lynne Dixon makes a concession speech surrounded by family on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Dixon, a county legislator and former television and radio journalist, is a member of the Independence Party who ran with the endorsement of the Republican Party.

The race was at times contentious, with negative ads filling the airwaves and Dixon calling Poloncarz a "bully" in a televised debate from the WNED | WBFO Studio.

Poloncarz declared victory from Democratic Party headquarters at downtown Buffalo's Statler City just before 11:30 p.m. Dixon delivered her concession speech several minutes later from Republican headquarters at The Avant.

Following her concession speech, Dixon said while disappointed by the outcome she remains enriched by the experience.

"I've made so many friends and connections and have met so many wonderful people along the way, that I don't feel like I really lost, in some respects, because of some of the people and the experiences I've had this last year," she said.

WBFO's Kyle Mackie speaks to Lynne Dixon following her defeat in the election for Erie County Executive.

Poloncarz said this was the longest of his re-election bids, given changes to state law, and also in his words a nasty campaign in the end. But he also spoke about some of the more light-hearted themes he utllized in his positive campaign ads, including a one-man hockey practice on a local rink.

Acknowledging Dixon had appeal to voters as a working single mother, his own commercial was important in showing he, too, takes part in activities to which the everyday Western New Yorkers can relate.

"They tried to say I was out-of-touch and aloof. The people who know me, know I'm Mark from Lackawanna," Poloncarz said. "I played hockey since I was eight years old. I coached hockey for ten years. The parents I worked with, that coached hockey, support me. The kids that I coach, there are some that are now 18 years old and they say 'hey coach, my first vote's going to be for you.' That meant a lot. Because you're a mentor as a coach but if they didn't like me, if they thought I was a jerk, they wouldn't vote for me. I'm appreciative that people got to see another side of me."

Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Jeremy Zellner said despite the mudslinging and efforts to unseat Poloncarz, the people continue to see him as a trustworthy leader.

"I think what you see with our county executive is fiscal responsibility and integrity," he said. "And they couldn't touch him. They threw all the mud at him but they couldn't touch him because, at the end of the day, this community knows Mark Poloncarz. They trust him. He's our watchdog. And they also know that he's not some left-wing zealot, he's the son of a steelworker from Lackawanna. I think that resonated with voters."

Dixon, meanwhile, gave up her seat on the Erie County Legislature to pursue her bid for county executive. She was asked, "what next?"

"I've got to give it a couple days to regroup and then we'll figure out the next moves," she replied. "I remain a county legislator until the end of this year. And then we'll figure out what my next moves are."

Listen to Mark Poloncarz's victory speech.

Listen to Lynne Dixon's concession speech

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.