By the evening of Election Day on Nov. 2, Brown’s victory was apparent, since the number of write-in ballots heavily outnumberedVotes for Walton Brown won the election by almost 20 percent.
New York State law forbade the Erie County Board of Elections’ opening of the write in ballots prior to Nov. 15th, the latest date of arrival of the ballots of U.S military personnel and Buffalonians abroad.
Like most observers, Brown had long assumed that the lion’s share of the write-in ballots were for him, and declared victory the night after in-person voting came to a close.
“The people of the city of Buffalo battled heart and soul for the remarkable progress we’ve achieved over the past 16 years and against those calling for ill-conceived policies that would reverse our progress,” he told supporters on election night.
Walton won the race Friday night.
“This election was not an end, but a beginning,” she said in a statement. “The new ideas we articulated, the new energy we inspired, the new volunteers we trained, and the new relationships we built will only grow in the coming years.”
Walton, who would have been the first self-described “democratic socialist” to lead a major U.S. city in decades and Buffalo’s first woman at the helm, scored an upset victory over Brown in the Democratic primaryIn June, Brown did not take Brown seriously.
But Brown didn’t make the same mistake twice.
Even though his efforts to get on the ballot were unsuccessful, he was able to run a passionate campaign. write-in bid against Walton in the general election that capitalized on support from the Democratic city’s sizable population of centrist and conservative voters, who set aside their differences in shared wariness of Walton.
“Experience matters, absolutely,” said Jacob Neiheisel, a political scientist at the University of Buffalo. “This is what happens when you actually campaign after more or less refusing to do so.”
Brown celebrated his victory as vindication for those opposed to demonizing large business and law enforcement on election night.
He extended a “special word” of thanks to Buffalo’s police officers and firefighters, and declared that business executives and entrepreneurs are “not the enemy.”
At the same time, in an apparent nod to Walton’s candidacy and the progressive criticism leveled against him, Brown added, “Together we will ensure that every Buffalo resident shares in the continuing revival of our great city.”
Brown’s win dashes the hopes of progressivesWho wanted to be able to demonstrate their skills in an executive position in a less politically favorable environment. And Walton’s loss provides more ammunition to figures in the Democratic Party establishment who insist that many left-wing policies and slogans are politically toxic, even in party strongholds like Buffalo, New York’s second-largest city.
“Don’t fix what ain’t broke.”
Brown is a loyal Buffalonian, especially among those who have relived their past. He presided over the city’s exit from under the thumb of a state-imposed fiscal control board and led during a development boom that revived the city’s downtown and waterfront areas. He also oversaw Buffalo’s first period of net population growth since 1950.
Chris Warner, who is a South Buffalo-based salesman, said that although he grew in the suburbs, he felt drawn to South Buffalo because of its lower property taxes. He said he didn’t vote in the Democratic mayoral primary because he assumed Brown had it locked up.
He said he would vote for Brown in general elections over Walton. “There’s been a significant change and turnaround with everything here,” he said, referring to the city’s trajectory during Brown’s nearly 16-year tenure. “Don’t fix what ain’t broke.”
Brown’s tenure as mayor of Buffalo was established during George W. Bush’s presidency. Many Buffalonians have had enough. His aides as well as city agencies were involved in numerous corruption scandals throughout the years. The city’s poverty rate remains stubbornly high at 30%. And plenty of residents on Buffalo’s predominantly Black East Side feel frustrated by the uneven distribution of city resources and the disruptive effects of gentrification.
Walton capitalized on voters’ exhaustion with Brown enough to win the Democratic primary, capture the imagination of the city’s growing cohort of young, progressive voters, and make significant inroads in Brown’s base on the East Side.
Walton, a single mom enrolled in Medicaid and having her first child at the age of 14, spoke from experience. She believes that development and growth can be made more accessible for everyone. She planned to scale up the projects she had worked on as founding executive director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, which sought to convert the neighborhood’s vacant lots into affordable housing units.
“We’re not seeing in a lot of communities the material benefits of the types of development that have been happening, and our strategy for economic development is to put the resources at the neighborhood level,” she told HuffPost in an October interview at her campaign headquarters.
However, to unseat an incumbent elected official you must use a double strategy. Discredit the incumbent and present a viable option.
Utilize an infusion of Republican business communityWith the help of cash, Walton was able raise double the amount that Walton did from mid-July through October. The mayor for many years successfully disqualified Walton. He launched a string of accusations that included sloppy facts and sometimes played loose with the facts. Even New York’s state Republican Party spent money amplifying Brown’s fear-filled message.
From the moment he announced his write-in campaign, he painted her as both unqualified and extreme ― a “radical socialist” who would chase middle-class families out of the city with higher taxes, coddle the perpetrators of violent crime and fire 100 police officers. Walton insists she wants to see a $7.5 million decrease in police annual budget by reducing overtime hours and staff attrition.
He also seized on unflattering parts of Walton’s personal history, such as her 2014 arrest for allegedly threatening a co-worker at her nursing job with physical violence.
“She thinks she’s above the law,” the narrator says as ominous music plays in one of Brown’s final ads.
Walton deniesShe denied that she threatened her coworker with violence, and instead claimed that she offered to resolve her differences with the person she felt was bullying her.
But the most effective political attacks work because they reinforce a candidate’s existing weaknesses in the eyes of voters.
For Walton, the stories about her personal life ― Brown also brought up a landlord’s eviction of Walton from an apartment in 2018 based on suspicions of drug sales by Walton’s family members that she firmly denies ― confirmed voters’ doubts about whether the first-time candidate was up to the task.
Mark Brown (no relation to the mayor), a retired state employee in the Masten district, said he didn’t find himself attracted to Walton as a candidate because of her inability “at this point in time to have her life managed.” He said he voted for Brown.
Walton didn’t help Walton in the last weeks of her campaign. Early October saw the fall of Walton. impounded Walton’s carOver a expired inspection tag, and nearly $700 worth of unpaid parking tickets. Walton said that Brown’s administration targeted her because of political motives. However, this could be possible.
Walton, too partially walked backA promise was made to improve how Buffalo applies a state-level realty tax cut after it became apparent that there were limited controls over its awarding circumstances.
“She has been responsible for some ‘own-goals’ that could have been avoided and come from her just being a novice candidate.”
“She has been responsible for some ‘own-goals’ that could have been avoided and come from her just being a novice candidate,” Neiheisel said.
Progressives were furious at Walton’s refusal to be endorsed by prominent New York Democrats, and called out an ideological double standard when it comes party unity. Notably neither New York governor. Kathy Hochul (D), a Western New York native, nor state party chairman Jay Jacobs ― who scored an own-goal of his own with an ill-advised analogy to David Duke ― got behind Walton’s candidacy.
Walton also received other powerful blessings late in life, which deprived her of any chance to raise funds or to improve her status. Sens. New York Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kirsten Schumer gave Walton support just two weeks prior to Election Day.
Walton did receive significant assistance from other parties, including the Working Families Party. They coordinated with Walton’s campaign and also mounted a separate, 6-figure television ad campaign in her name through their respective arms.
Brown was on the airwaves for only three weeks during September. Walton, however, and her WFP alliesIn the last weeks, they outspent each other on television.
The progressive group helped Walton refute Brown’s unfounded TV attack adsThis woman claimed she was going to fire 100 police officers. rebuttal adWalton did not create it. Walton made it clear in public appearances that she was shifting police priorities from traffic stops to mental-health calls, which would allow her to free up resources for law enforcement to tackle violent crime.
In conversations with several Buffalo voters open to an alternative to Brown, however, no amount of rebuttals could assuage their concerns about Walton’s plan to cut police funding. Especially on the East Side, a common complaint about Brown was that the police weren’t coming often enough under his administration.
Less police funding is “the last thing we need,” said Andy Pleasant, a flea-market worker in Schiller Park. “That’s the only reason I would not vote for her.”