KENMORE, N.Y. (WIVB) – With Election Day now just two weeks away, the two men running for the Erie County Executive job faced off for a debate on stage at Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute Tuesday morning. It’s the second debate between incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz and his Republican challenger, Assemblyman Ray Walter, during this campaign season.
St. Joe’s has hosted political debates every year for more than three decades now, and they always provide an important civics lesson for students. “It’s been really interesting to see an actual debate,” said Eoin Rapp, a senior who served on the panel of AP Government students who asked the candidates questions Tuesday morning.
While most of the people in the audience aren’t even old enough to vote, they say it’s important to know where the candidates stand. “Politics is extremely important so that you’re aware of your community and even when I turn 18 I need to know what’s going on in my community and how I’m going to be able to participate later on,” said Mohamed Eltagouri, a junior at St. Joe’s.
Most of the questions during the debate came from the students, and Polancarz and Walter were both asked to weigh in on a wide range of topics, from their stances on gun control to the high poverty rate in Buffalo to the salary for the County Executive job.
The discussion seemed particularly entrenched on the topic of how local tax revenue should be divvied up. “We still have one of the highest tax burdens in the nation and my Fair Share plan will address that, drive down property taxes, invest in schools,” Walter said.
“It’s a bad plan that will do more harm than good,” Poloncarz countered.
At the end of the debate, the students walked away with a better understanding of the political process, and with some tight lips about who they think came out on top. “They both were very knowledgeable, they knew what they were talking about, they each got their own little shots in,” Rapp said, “But I’d say it was fairly even on the debating standpoint.”
The two candidates that went head to head in the debate on Tuesday also met for a debate in the public television studios last week.