Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown declared victory in his write-in campaign to retain his seat, saying he had defeated Democratic nominee and socialist India Walton.
“Today’s election was not just a referendum on the direction of the city of Buffalo, it was a referendum on the future of our democracy and our vision for our future,” Brown said late Tuesday night.
Brown, a four-term incumbent, turned to a write-in campaign after losing the June primary to Walton. With a majority of the vote counted, “write-ins” held a double-digit lead in the race. While absentee votes need to be counted and write-in votes confirmed to be for Brown, the four-term incumbent celebrated the apparent victory while Walton said all the write-ins need to be counted and said she was not conceding.
Walton’s upset in the June primary was a shock in New York’s second largest city, defeating Brown by four points after he refused to debate her and essentially ignored her candidacy. A Buffalo native and registered nurse who became a mother at age 14, she had not run for office before.
Walton, 39, was involved in housing activism in the city as well as last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Republicans did not field a candidate in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Walton ran to become the first woman to be mayor of Buffalo and the first socialist to lead a major American city in decades.
Brown, 63, a former state senator, was first elected to the role in 2005. The first Black mayor in the city’s history, Brown is a moderate, pro-business executive who also served as co-chair of the state Democratic Party. He spent the general election campaign painting Walton as a dangerous radical who was too far left for the city’s residents.
“The mailers went to a broad universe of voters who we believe will vote to stop socialism in the City of Buffalo,” said state GOP spokeswoman Jessica Proud. Nick Langworthy, the New York Republican chair, .
Walton’s victory splintered Democratic powerbrokers in the Empire State. She was endorsed by both of the state’s U.S. senators in Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as prominent progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman. However, following her primary win, the Buffalo Common Council voted to explore the idea .
The state party never rallied behind her, with Gov. Kathy Hochul declining to endorse and state Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs drawing criticism last month for comparing Walton to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke in an interview.
“Let’s take a scenario, very different, where David Duke — you remember him, the grand wizard of the KKK — he moves to New York, he becomes a Democrat, he runs for mayor in the city of Rochester, which is a low primary turnout, and he wins the Democratic line,” .
“I have to endorse David Duke? I don’t think so. Now, of course, India Walton is not in the same category. But it just leads you to that question: Is it a must? It’s not a must.”
Schumer called the statement “totally unacceptable and the analogy used was outrageous and beyond absurd,” while Bowman was among those who called on Jacobs to resign, calling his comments the “malignant narcissism of far too many white men.”
After initially refusing to apologize and defending his comments, Jacobs relented but reiterated “not every candidate who wins a primary is entitled, unquestionably, to the endorsement of all party leaders or elected officials.”
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