BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Erie County Executive race entered the final stretch on Tuesday, as Democratic incumbent Mark Poloncarz and Republican challenger Chrissy Casilio stood before the issues and the voters for a debate two weeks before Election Day.

Poloncarz is running for his fourth and what he says is his final term, looking to build off his previous three. Meanwhile, Casilio is a newcomer to the political scene who believes the county is ready for change. Both candidates stand that they are the ones who can lead the county to prosperity.

“I think people would see the difference between the two of us,” Poloncarz said afterward. “Myself, what I’ve been able to do to help lead our community through some of the worst crises we’ve ever seen.”

Failed leadership can cost people lives in Erie County. Failed leadership can cause economic issues and hardships for families. And we need new leadership,” Casilio said.

One of the voters’ biggest concerns on the ballot that was discussed during the debate was a response to the migrant crisis facing the county.

“The first step that I’m going to take is to sue New York City and New York State, and then I’m going to reverse course and I’m going to be sending the migrants back,” Casilio said.

“This is a federal problem that requires a federal solution,” Poloncarz responded. “Going to federal court is not going to solve it, and it’s going to cost taxpayers a lot more money than we’re spending right now.”

Political analyst Len Lenihan said the issue of county taxpayers footing the bill for the migrants was overblown.

“The county’s incurred almost no cost for that for the number of people that are here. It hasn’t cost the county taxpayers anything, the state and the city are paying that,” Lenihan said.

Another hot topic of the debate were some since-deleted social media posts sent by Casilio, disputing that there was an insurrection on Jan. 6, among others.

“There was not an insurrection on January 6. There was not an insurrection with the election. Understand this, there is nothing wrong with answering [and asking] questions,” said Casilio.

“She did question whether there was an insurrection on January 6, which we know there was an insurrection. It was an attempt to overthrow our democracy,” added Poloncarz.

Poloncarz was also asked to answer matters of his personal life, including an alleged domestic incident involving an ex-girlfriend.

“I understand as a county executive your personal life becomes public. But what we’re talking about is, in some of the accusations from Republicans, is that I did horrible things which if I did any of those, I would not be standing here today,” said Poloncarz.

“You put your hands on women and that is unacceptable. A police report is a credible document, and it is a legal document,” responded Casilio.

Political analyst Carl Calabrese said that moment was a strong one for Casilio.

“When they got into the women issue and she had the domestic violence pin on, I thought that was brilliant and then her line that ‘You put your hands on women, that is wrong’. Boy, she won that one, hands down,” he said.

“It’s good for the community to see these two candidates. But again, I think it was experience and facts versus just a lot of smoke and no fire,” said Lenihan.

“If you’re debating an incumbent, you’re the challenger. You really don’t have to win the debate hands down. If you tie an incumbent that’s considered a win,” concluded Calabrese.

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.