BUFFALO, N.Y. -- How to deal with the surging migrant population has been a hot debate topic across the country and particularly in New York, with tens of thousands of people coming to New York City over the last year, and some beginning to relocate to upstate cities this summer.

"We've seen some polling with at least some voters that this is one of their top issues, one of their top concerns and when that merges with another top concern, which is crime, it can have a huge political fallout," Democratic political analyst Jack O'Donnell said.

He said following two separate alleged incidents of sexual assault committed by migrants in Erie County, it's become an even bigger political issue there. O'Donnell said Republican Erie County executive candidate Chrissy Casilio's campaign has struggled to find its footing but appears to be gaining traction by narrowing its focus to migrants.

"Frankly it's the first sign of life we've seen from the Republican county executive campaign," he said.

This weekend, incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz changed course — a bit — asking New York City Mayor Adams to stop sending migrants to Erie County for the time being. He had generally taken a welcoming approach, however, discussing his belief the county had a moral and legal responsibility to accept asylum seekers, even as other upstate leaders moved to institute policies meant to keep them out.

"I think of course there was some political calculation in that. Democrats broadly care about this issue, care about finding places for people to stay, being welcome and being open and I think that may have been strategic, but absolutely I take the county executive at his word that this started from a place of principle," O'Donnell said.

He said the migrant discussion may not just impact the tops of ballots, like the Erie County executive race.

"It becomes an issue, especially in places where we've seen some of these migrants housed. We've heard a lot about it from elected officials in the town of Cheektowaga. We've got a competitive supervisors race there," he said.

Although the upstate migrant populations are in largely Democratic counties, O'Donnell pointed out this is an off year election cycle and if Republicans can use the issue to drive their own voters to turn out and potentially keep moderate Democrats and independents home, it could be to their benefit.