It's Labor Day Weekend, and by official decree somewhere, it is now Campaign Season.
Indeed, this weekend's parades will feature candidates of every stripe. County Executive Chris Collins' ads are showcasing sparkling beaches and sturdy new bridges, and average citizens now begin focusing on campaigns that will culminate on Nov. 8.
In addition, Spin Season kicks off this weekend, when the forces of Collins and Democratic opponent Mark Poloncarz make every effort to portray their county executive candidate as the one with momentum; the one worthy of the fat checks of campaign donors.
To that end, the latest word from the Poloncarz camp says the county comptroller is mounting a serious challenge to the wealthy and entrenched Collins. A new poll, Democratic sources say, shows Poloncarz "within the margin of error" in the county executive race. Nobody cites specific numbers, but a good poll with a respectable field of respondents could lead to the conclusion the Democrat trails by four or five points.
Such a close race, the Dems say, explains why Collins is already saturating the airwaves with his testimonials to beaches and bridges. Why else, they ask, would the county executive spend such money at this early date (one answer: he has it).
And why, they also ask, would Collins prominently feature a "mom from Cheektowaga" in one spot unless his own polling showed him shaky with suburban women.
"This is a much closer race than people have been led to believe," is how one Poloncarz insider put it.
There is more reason for optimism in Democratland. The recent Poloncarz fundraiser hosted by Reps. Louise Slaughter, Brian Higgins and Kathy Hochul netted the candidate about $80,000 -- not bad for a campaign that has struggled financially. Then again, it's a paltry sum compared to the $1.6 million stuffing the Collins coffers.
But those same coffers are the very reason for polling -- and spin -- in the still young campaign. Poll numbers showing Poloncarz in the game are exactly what he needs to entice on-the-fence donors. But it should also be remembered they are internal poll numbers -- paid for by Poloncarz and resulting from who knows what kind of questions. They must be viewed from that perspective.
One GOP insider, meanwhile, says a recent poll conducted in Amherst shows Collins up by a whopping 16 points. Another Republican who knows about polls, fundraising and campaigns said Poloncarz may indeed be close -- though nobody is really yet paying attention.
That GOP source knows full well why poll results suddenly command so much attention.,
"The money needs to show in mid-September," he said, "if they're going to play in this thing."
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Speculation is intensifying over the political future of State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, who earned an improbable victory in an overwhelmingly Democratic district last year and who has never ruled out the possibility of returning to the Democrats he left in 2010.
A host of political advantages might accompany such a party shift, but Democrats are not necessarily panting over the prospect of Grisanti returning to the fold. One statewide Dem noted Grisanti left the party once already, and is close to local Republicans such as former County Executive Joel Giambra.
The same source emphasized nobody has closed the door to Grisanti, adding the senator has not even broached the subject with them. But the source also points out that plenty of real Democrats would love a shot at the most Democratic of all upstate Senate seats.
In order for Grisanti to run as a Democrat next year, election law says he must make his decision some time within the next two months.