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Buffalo Mayor Brown, saying India Walton’s victory ‘will not stand,’ announces write-in campaign

Byron Brown announces write-in campaign
Mike Desmond/WBFO News
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Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, while flanked by supporters, announces his write-in campaign Monday at the Statler Building in downtown Buffalo. Brown lost to challenger India Walton in the Democratic primary last week.

Less than a week after losing a Democratic primary race to India Walton, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown roared back Monday to say he's back in the race.

Flanked by supporters at the Statler building in downtown Buffalo, Brown announced he will run a write-in campaign for the November election against Walton, a political newcomer and Democratic Socialist.

After a lackluster primary campaign in which he refused to debate, Brown appeared energized and confrontational in his announcement. Despite losing by seven points in the primary, Brown said city voters support him.

“The voters have said that they don't want an unqualified, inexperienced, radical Socialist trying to learn on the job, on the backs of the residents of this community,” he said. “We will not let it happen. It will not stand.”

Brown claimed “thousands” of people have contacted him since he lost the primary to Walton and asked him to push hard to get an unprecedented fifth term.

“People are fearful about the future of our city,” Brown said. “They are fearful about the future of their families. They are fearful about the future of their children, and they have said to me that they do not want a radical Socialist occupying the mayor's office in Buffalo.”

When asked for documentation of his claim, Brown said his campaign will “put out a list of our supporters.”

Brown has faced criticism for a “Keep Byron Brown” rally held outside Thursday’s Toronto Blue Jays game at Sahlen Field. Purported to be a grassroots effort, the rally was attended by many of Brown’s senior staff, whose high-paying jobs are on the line if he leaves office.

Brown is likely to raise substantial campaign money from local business interests. In the final days leading up to Primary Election Day, wealthy donors contributed nearly $120,000 to his campaign. The Statler building where Brown made his announcement Monday is owned by millionaire developer Douglas Jemal, who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump for a 2006 wire fraud conviction.

Carl Paladino, the chairman of Ellicott Development Co. who ran as a Republican against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2010, has urged the business community to support Brown as a write-in candidate.

Brown’s campaign acknowledged Paldino’s support in a statement Friday, but Brown has since said he “did not seek” nor will he accept support from Paladino during his write-in campaign.

Brown would not answer yes or no to accepting a GOP party endorsement, responding, “I’m running as a write-in candidate.” Deadlines have passed for Republicans to put a candidate on the ballot.

In a tweet Monday, Walton described Brown’s write-in campaign as “right-wing.”

“While we have the support of the voters, Byron has the support of racist developer Carl Paladino, the [Buffalo Police Benevolent Association], and the GOP,” she said.

In addition to national figures like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Walton now has the support of the local Democratic establishment. About a half-hour after Brown’s announcement, Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner tweeted a photo of himself and Walton, saying, “We are with her, now and through the general election in the fall.”

“Mayor Brown is well within his rights to pursue a write-in candidacy,” Zellner added. “But the Democratic Party listens to the will of Democratic voters, and today India Walton is our candidate for mayor of the City of Buffalo.”

Brown refused to say Walton's name on Monday, but said he can use her own political stands against her.

“Every time she talks about defunding police, which will make our community less safe, which will make our home values go down, which will make our children less safe, that is more time that people are calling us, showing their support for our candidacy,” he said.

Brown said he will debate Walton “any time, any place, anywhere.” Asked why he wouldn’t debate her during the primary, Brown said, “The past is the past. I can only go forward.”

Brown admitted being re-elected as a write-in candidate won't be easy, but he cited two-examples of people doing it. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan won write-in campaigns in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

“Those that think we can’t win: We can win and we will win Nov. 2,” he said.

However, Brown may not be the only serious write-in candidate. Buffalo Common Council Member Joel Feroleto and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra both said Monday they’re considering write-in campaigns.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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