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Jennifer Hibit: Poloncarz Campaign Manager

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Jennifer Hibit: Poloncarz Campaign Manager

Jennifer Hibit, a Depew native who now lives in Buffalo, just made a big mark in the political world: The Niagara University graduate served as campaign manager for Mark Poloncarz, the Democrat who unseated incumbent Erie County Executive Chris Collins on Tuesday. Hibit coordinated a relatively young campaign team and worked in concert with local labor unions to take on and defeat an entrenched, well financed opponent. We caught up with her the morning after election night to talk to her about the campaign.

How did you become involved in politics and campaigns?

I graduated with a degree in political science and then traveled around the country working on various campaigns. In 2003, I moved back to Buffalo and began working for 1199 SEIU as their Western New York political coordinator.

What was the strategy? To what do you attribute the campaign’s success?

The strategy was to win! We had a fantastic team. Field director Ben Swanekamp, finance director Liz Burakowski, spokesman Peter Anderson, and the many others who helped, contributed to Mark’s winning campaign. They were young, smart, and willing to put in the hard work to make Mark’s campaign a success.

What were the campaign’s biggest hurdles?

Every campaign has hurdles, it’s how you navigate them that matters. Money was an issue until the end, and working with groups of people who aren’t always united—working to bring those people together was difficult, but we did it.

Can you talk about the role the unions played in the campaign? Was it different than it has been in years past?

Labor support was so instrumental in this race. Labor is always active in local races, but this year they really stepped up their game. The work they did, talking to their members and mobilizing the base, was important.

Are you someone who watches the returns closely as they come in or is it too difficult to watch? When did you know it was a win?

As a campaign staffer, you watch the numbers. It’s always hard but you have to have faith in your plan and hope that you did everything you could to make election night a good night for your candidate.

What’s next for you?

Who knows—but I am looking forward to a nap.

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