A few questions to ponder as Election Day creeps upon us:

* Just how close is the big county executive race between Republican Chris Collins and Democrat Mark Poloncarz?

Drips and drabs of polling results flowing into the Politics Column say it remains a close one, but as internal surveys conducted by the candidates, they must be viewed with skepticism.

* What will Gov. Andrew Cuomo's expected visit on behalf of Poloncarz do for the Democrat?

The most popular pol in New York State is viewed favorably even among most Erie County Republicans, according to an October Siena College poll. Indeed, even Collins gave good marks to the governor during the recent debate at WNED-TV. Short answer: Poloncarz is very much looking forward to the Cuomo visit.

* Will there be some "awkward moments" at the governor's endorsement event?

Consider that Cuomo's forces have tried to remove Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan -- Poloncarz's top champion. Throw in the fact that Byron Brown, the Democratic mayor of Buffalo and Cuomo ally, also has not endorsed Poloncarz, and it explains why statewide Dems don't want anything to do with the Wild West of New York State.

* If Cuomo asks Brown to get off the fence and support Poloncarz, could it happen?

Possibly, according to City Hall insiders.

* Does Poloncarz care?

Some sources say yes, but a top Poloncarz supporter points out Brown's countywide numbers are not very exciting, and mayoral endorsements never play well in the burbs anyway.

* Will the backing of former comptroller Alfreda Slominski boost Collins?

Ask office holders from the past like former comptroller Nancy Naples (a Republican) or county executive Dennis Gorski (a Democrat). Both were thrilled to receive the nod from Slominski, who always seemed to connect with voters. But after 18 years away from the political scene, it's anybody's guess as to what it means now.

* Was there an ulterior motive behind Democratic Headquarters' refusal to endorse Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams other than punishment for playing political footsie with Collins?

Miller-Williams' presence on minor party lines creates at least one legislative race in the City of Buffalo, where Republicans no longer deign to participate. The result is increased turnout in Democratic Buffalo, and that can't hurt the Poloncarz effort.

* Isn't it big news when two Democrats endorse Republican Chris Jacobs for county clerk?

Kind of. But Council Members Joe Golombek and Bonnie Russell are Brown allies, and Democratic candidate Maria Whyte comes from the camp of former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt -- who is not.

* What about this Ballotgate mini-scandal brewing at the Board of Elections, where both sides are attempting to score points over tampered absentee ballots?

The Erie County Sheriff's Office has declared neither campaign to be involved with the caper, which should be the end of the story, but probably will not be. In the meantime, officials are researching whether the culprit can be charged with something like first-degree stupidity.

* What is "puzzling and disturbing" to GOP Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr about the situation?

He asks how several bipartisan employees at the board didn't notice tampering with ballots; no doubt sheriff's detectives have asked the same question.

* Why did all those ballots end up in Lackawanna?

It is inscribed in the Official Rules of Erie County Politics that all weird stuff happens in Lackawanna.