A few observations about politics around here:

*Have better local debates ever aired between two well-honed congressional candidates than last week's encounters between Republican challenger Chris Collins and Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul?

The two squared off on Channel 17 and Channel 23 last week, and will meet again Wednesday on YNN Cable. So far the showdowns have unveiled two diametrically opposed candidates who present a clear choice for voters in the eight-county 27th District.

Observation 1: It has been semi-officially established that Collins set a world record for most negative references to "Obamacare" during a one-hour congressional debate on Channel 17. Maybe his internal polls reflect what the latest Siena College survey of NY27 showed – 51 percent favor Obamacare's repeal, while 42 percent want full implementation.

Observation 2: Hochul came close to establishing her own record for emphasizing "independence" during her debate performances. She works hard to distance herself from Obama, yet supports him, too.

Observation 3: Hochul labeled "diversionary" a question on Channel 23 about her support for Obama. Maybe she hopes to divert attention from Obama's 52 percent unfavorable and 44 percent favorable rating in the Siena poll.

Observation 4: So far Collins and his supporters have spent lots of money on ads linking her to the president, while Hochul has worked equally hard to convey "independence."

Observation 5: Be assured that neither candidate embarks on these paths without solid polling data. Be also assured Hochul's data says Bill Clinton must fare far better in local polling than Obama – hence the former president's appearance in Rochester for her and Rep. Louise Slaughter that was slated for Friday.

Observation 6: Following his speech that wowed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last month, Clinton has emerged as a potent weapon on the Democratic campaign trail this year.

And he has never hesitated to burn up that trail in New York State.

• As reported in last week's Politics Column, a meeting between new Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner and Mayor Byron Brown took place as planned a few days ago – at Zellner's initiative. According to the new chairman, the encounter over coffee went well.

"It was extremely cordial," Zellner said. "I respect the mayor a lot, and he deserves a seat at the table."

But this was no dainty coffee klatsch. In the language of diplomacy – "frank discussions ensued."

Zellner said he told the mayor he wants a new relationship, and that Headquarters' endorsement for Brown's 2013 re-election campaign is possible. But it's not automatic.

"I'm trying, but it's a two-way street," Zellner said.

The chairman noted that Rep. Brian Higgins is financially supporting a party organization with little in the bank. Zellner wants the same "cooperation" from City Hall if local Dems are to be one big happy family again.

"I would love to have your financial support," Zellner said he told Brown, adding he hopes the mayor will attend his Oct. 29 fund-raiser.

Brown has a commitment that night, but most pols say a check works just as nicely as a smiling face at those events.

As questions surround whether Albany Democrats are paying any attention to the Zellner operation, the new chairman must also endure Frank Max nipping at his heels. The Cheektowaga party leader, whom Zellner defeated in last month's chairmanship election, is disputing the results in court.

He claims party Secretary Dennis Ward "rigged" the election during the reapportionment process – a charge Ward denies. He says he wants a "fair election," and insists he will prevail when the case lands in Justice Deborah Chime's courtroom on Oct. 29.

"I'm not going away," Max said, providing fodder for at least one political scribe to justify his existence for a few weeks longer.