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APR 07 - APR 14, 2015

Walter Gearing Up to Take on Poloncarz in November

By Tony Farina

April 07, 2015

Raymond Walter

It looks like Erie County Republicans will turn to Amherst Assemblyman Raymond Walter to take on Democratic County Executive Mark Poloncarz in November after Chris Jacobs took himself out of consideration as a GOP candidate in what would have been his third countywide race in four years.

Jacobs, who ran countywide in 2011 and 2014 for his current seat as Erie County clerk, withdrew from consideration for the county executive race on Monday, saying in a statement his commitment to the clerk’s office “must come ahead of any campaign for county executive.” Jacobs has signaled he will support Walter to carry the GOP banner.

“I’m certainly flattered by his [Jacobs] support,” said Walter late Monday, “and I’ve been taking a strong look at running for several weeks. I think it is a winnable race but there is a process to be followed, and [GOP] Chairman Nick Langworthy will be talking to the town chairs over the coming week and I would think by next week we’ll know where things stand.”

Mark Poloncarz

Walter, 43, has a close relationship with Chairman Langworthy and began his political career in 2009 when the GOP County Committee appointed him to the county legislature to fill the seat vacated by Michael Ranzenhofer who resigned after winning a run for the State Senate. Walter, running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines, first won election to the Assembly in 2011, representing the 146th District which includes Amherst and Pendleton in Niagara County.

As for Jacobs, he was left dangling recently when Republican County Controller Stefan Mychajliw withdrew as a potential county executive candidate and endorsed Jacobs to make the run against Poloncarz. But after giving it much consideration, Jacobs decided not to accept the Mychajliw toss and has decided to wait for another day.

“Chris is a great guy and a great candidate,” said GOP political consultant Jack Cookfair who served as a media advisor to Jacobs in his two races for clerk in a county where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by about 100,000. “But I know how much it takes out of a person and I can understand why he might not want to make it three countywide races in four years.”

Jacobs, with those two countywide victories under his belt, was seen as the GOP frontrunner if he decided to enter the race, but while he gave it serious consideration, at the end of the day the former Buffalo School Board member decided that waging what many expected to be a $1 million race against an entrenched incumbent was not what he wanted at this point in his political career. Jacobs is only 48 and has put together a solid record as county clerk.

“Since I took office three years ago, we have taken the clerk’s office from a crisis condition to a model of efficiency, customer service and innovation and the most profitable division in county government,” he said in his statement Monday announcing that he would not run for county executive.

For his part, Walter’s biography talks about his successful career in the private sector before going back to school and getting his law degree from the University of Buffalo. As a practicing attorney, Walter focused on elder law and estate planning and currently serves as the ranking minority member of the Assembly’s Aging Committee.

Walter currently serves as a board member for the Amherst Senior Citizens Foundation and as a coach for Amherst Youth Basketball. Walter and his wife, Jennifer, live in East Amherst with their two sons, Ray and Jack.

Asked if he could raise the kind of money that many observers believe is necessary to run a competitive race against Poloncarz, Walter said that with social media and other technology available, “there are a lot more ways to reach people than there used to be. I think that if we raise $200,000, and I think we can do that, we can run a strong campaign.”

It looks like Republicans, behind Langworthy’s leadership, will rally the troops to get behind a Walter candidacy and an official declaration is likely just a few days away. Walter has enjoyed the support of the Erie County Conservative Party in his Assembly races and will likely seek support from Chairman Ralph Lorigo’s party in a race against Poloncarz.

For his part, Poloncarz has been able to sit back and wait to see who is challenger will be in November, and he now pretty much knows that the battle in November will see him defending his record against the young Amherst lawyer who believes the race is winnable.





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