When voters go to the polls in Erie County November 5, they will cast ballots to choose a new county executive. One term congresswoman, Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper, is facing a challenge from Republican entrepreneur Don Tucci.
Dahlkemper and Tucci are both spending their days knocking on doors and handing out campaign literature. Dahlkemper's flyers say she has the experience, vision and passion to bring positive change to Erie County. Tucci's materials say he is a businessman and not a politician. She wants to create a jobs plan as the blueprint to move the county forward. He wants to encourage businesses to locate and expand in Erie County and to enact an apprenticeship and mentoring program.
A businesswoman, and partner in Dahlkemper Landscaping, Kathy demonstrated her popularity in her own party in the primary, knocking off incumbent Barry Grossman. In her favor in the general election, she has name recognition, a big democratic voter registration edge, and campaign cash. She's raised 125 thousand dollars for the campaign, compared with Tucci's 12 thousand dollars. Dahlkemper said she has spent most of what she raised on TV advertising and mailings.
Tucci is hoping that voters who didn't like Dahlkemper's support of the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care, and didn't keep her in Congress will help him overcome a lack of name recognition. "A lot of people don't know me and that's one of the problems," said Tucci. "But one of the assets is, Mrs. Dahlkemper's voting record, that supercedes just about anybody, it's anybody but Dahlkemper that's about the best endorsement I can have, but at least it's an endorsement."
Dahlkemper says she gets favorable responses as she goes door to door, but some voters volunteer that they are not planning to support her. "Sometimes the Affordable Care Act and that vote is a reason why people aren't voting for me," said Dahlkemper, "sometimes it's simply because they're a Republican and they don't vote for Democrats." She added, "I always tell people it's about good governance when it come to local elections and that things that divide us on a state and federal level aren't normally issues we deal with on a county level. Its about how do we govern Erie County in a way that is a win-win for everybody."
There are more than 95 thousand Democrats registered, just over 60 thousand Republicans, but Dahlkemper says the edge means little, if voters don't turn out. She believes that's what doomed her congressional re-election bid in 2010, and worked in favor of challenger Mike Kelly. "Eighty thousand Democrats who voted in 2008 didn't come out in the 3rd district, if they had come out, even a portion of them, I would have won, so it's important to be out knocking on doors not just asking for votes, but to get out the vote."
Tucci says he knows the odds are long, but he's expecting a surprise. "It's almost 2 to 1 odds, you know what, I kind of like odds like that because I usually see what people don't expect."