Buffalo mayor’s race: revenge between India Walton and Byron Brown


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BUFFALO, NY – If Byron Brown is successful in his frantic quest for a fifth term as mayor of Buffalo, he might just have a stamp to thank.

First elected in 2005, Mr Brown, 63, is currently leading a written campaign against India Walton, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist who stunned politicians in June by winning the Democratic primary here.

A general election victory for Ms. Walton would make history on several fronts: she would be the first socialist to lead a major American city in decades, and the first woman – and the first black woman – to lead Buffalo, the second from New York. -the largest city.

Ms Walton’s early successes, however, did not secure her a warm embrace from state leaders, as Governor Kathy Hochul and Jay S. Jacobs, chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee , refused to support her, even though the race has entered its final days.

This lack of unified institutional support has given hope to Mr Brown, who is seen as a formidable challenger due to his long presence on the city’s political scene.

Yet Ms. Walton’s is the only name that will be printed on the ballots; outnumbered in a heavily Democratic city, Republicans are not running a candidate or any other party.

As a written candidate, Mr. Brown faces many logistical challenges, including trying to get voters to mark his name correctly on ballots; serious spelling errors could disqualify the votes intended for it.

So Mr. Brown’s campaign bought tens of thousands of ink pads bearing the mayor’s name, at a cost of about $ 100,000, and distributed them to various supporters across town, according to the candidate.

Under New York Election Law, the use of such a rubber stamp is legal. Mr. Brown has been aggressive in relying on union allies – including the powerful Civil Service Employees Association and the Transport Workers Union of America – to get voters stamps.

Ms Walton, 39, tried to assert her inherent advantage of being the only female candidate on the ballot and appealed to progressive party stars, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who traveled to Buffalo the first day. to vote in advance to crush it.

“We want to show that post-industrial cities like the city of Buffalo can thrive with progressive policies,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, in an interview with Buffalo WIVB television station.

“When you talk about capitalism, socialism, et cetera, these are very high debates,” she said. “I think what’s important is to say ‘Where’s the beef?’ What policies does each candidate actually offer? “

The MP’s rhetoric highlighted some of the challenges Ms. Walton faces in the general election, including the relentless beating of Mr. Brown, who argued that Ms. Walton is inexperienced and that the policies she is proposing are too extremes for Buffalo.

These attacks have been echoed by some Republicans who have found themselves in the special role of potential kingmakers in a city where their votes often have little impact.

Ms Walton, a registered nurse who is making her first run for public office, says Mr Brown – a former head of state party – did little to benefit regular residents of Buffalo during his tenure. four terms, instead favoring deep-pocketed developers who have built a series of projects along the city’s Lake Erie shores.

She has been helped to make this argument by groups like the Working Families Party, which has regularly opposed moderate Democrats like Mr. Brown in favor of younger, more progressive candidates like Ms. Walton, whose campaigns are often energized. through questions of social justice.

Ms Walton has also garnered support from other prominent national progressives, including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as lower-state figures such as the New York Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams, who is now officially exploring a race for governor.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Ms Walton saw the pace of establishment number approvals accelerate, with the two US state senators – Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand – coming for her.

Still, Ms Hochul’s lack of support has been a blatant development given that she is a longtime Buffalo-area resident, as well as a gubernatorial candidate who will have to woo the same left flank of the party as Mrs. Walton galvanized.

And in mid-October, when asked why he wouldn’t publicly support Ms Walton, Mr Jacobs compared it to a scenario where the party would refrain from backing David Duke, the former KKK leader. , if Mr. Duke were to win a Democratic primary. His words attracted a furious response from many elected Democrats, and calls for the resignation of Mr. Jacobs.

Mr Brown represents a more centrist faction in New York State, and corporate and business groups have been pushing for his re-election, including real estate interests, who paid money in the campaign via independent spend groups.

Mr Brown, who served as the city’s first black mayor, was quick to accept support from Republicans, who are nearly two-to-one in Erie County.

In the face of political oblivion, Mr Brown has also taken a much more aggressive stance during the general election campaign, hitting several polling stations last week and rallying support from local leaders.

During the early voting period, which ended on Sunday, the Brown campaign also set up “voter education posts” near polling stations to offer advice on how to write to the polling station. name of Mr. Brown.

The vigor of Mr Brown’s written campaign stands in stark contrast to his seemingly ambivalent main candidacy, when he refused to debate Ms Walton or truly acknowledge her challenge, seemingly assuming that his name recognition and 16 years in office l ‘would win. .

He was wrong: Ms Walton won hands down, enjoying a surge of support in middle-class neighborhoods, as well as in progressive enclaves where her message of racial and economic fairness played well.

In a heated debate last week, Mr Brown blamed his poor performance in the primary on being distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.

He also directly challenged Ms Walton’s political good faith, accusing her of wanting to implement ideas that would derail progress in Buffalo, which has seen a surprising increase in its population over the past decade.

“I don’t see Ms. Walton as a Democrat,” Mr. Brown said. “I think his ideas for the city of Buffalo are bad and unworkable at best.”

Ms Walton quickly replied, noting that she had the party line on the ballot. “I won the Democratic primary. Second, I am a self-proclaimed democratic socialist. The first word is “democrat”.

While the Buffalo run garnered widespread attention in an off-year election, there is a very real possibility that Election Day may not result in an early victory for either candidate.

Officials will not be able to declare a winner on Tuesday unless Ms Walton gets a majority of the vote, said Jeremy Zellner, chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party and supporter of Ms Walton, who is also the Democratic Commissioner of the Erie. County Electoral Council.

If the majority of the ballots – especially a slim majority – are marked with candidates written instead, the election could quickly switch from polling stations to courtrooms, he said, as candidates lawyers are starting to wonder if these ballots were valid or marked with discernible names.

(To potentially complicate matters, a third candidate, Benjamin Carlisle, a former Democrat who also runs a writing campaign.)

Also adding to the uncertainty, the postal ballots will not be counted until at least mid-November, Zellner said. He added that minor misspellings on the ballots would likely not be disqualifying, although he expected many to be carefully scrutinized.

“It basically has to do with the intention of the voter,” he said. “If someone writes ‘Gonzo Smith’, that’s one thing. But if it’s “BIRON”, it will probably count “to Mr. Brown.

Ms Walton made sure voters knew her name as well, telling her personal story with her fascinating bow. She had a child as a young teenager and went on to earn a GED while pregnant with twins, before becoming a representative of SEIU 1199, the health care union.

Its elementary platform leaned heavily on the idea that the city – which had pockets of economic vitality under Mr Brown – should share the wealth and solve its long-standing problems with affordable housing, a school system. poor and income disparities, including more than a third of the city’s children live in poverty.

She has also distanced herself from any suggestion that she wants to cut police funding, which Mr Brown has repeatedly accused her of.

During the debate, Ms Walton appeared to strive to present herself as a competent and moderate successor to Mr Brown, rather than a left-wing alternative, saying she wanted to offer “viable solutions to the deep challenges we face. “.

“I am resilient,” she says. “Success is what you define for yourself. I am a success. And I am ready.


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