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Two court rulings keep Mayor Brown off Independent Party ballot line

India Walton and Byron Brown debate
Tom Dinki
Democratic nominee India Walton (l) and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown debate Sept. 9, 2021 at the Frank E. Merriweather Library. The debate was hosted by the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists and WUFO.

A state and federal appeals court both issued rulings late Thursday that Mayor Byron Brown, the four-term incumbent who lost the Democratic Primary in June, does not go on the November ballot on an independent party line.

The state appellate court ruled Thursday that “a reasonably diligent candidate could be expected” to meet state regulations for gaining an independent line on the general election ballot.

Brown, after his defeat by India Walton in June, followed by announcing a write-in effort. But his campaign then sought to get on the ballot on an independent line, the Buffalo Party. The Erie County Board of Elections ruled the petitions were turned in too late and his bid was rejected.

The Brown campaign appealed and federal judge John Sinatra ordered him back on the mayoral ballot, ruling the new state deadline puts independent candidates at a disadvantage. Critics blasted that ruling, noting that Sinatra’s brother, local developer Nick Sinatra, has had close ties to Brown.

The U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit also ruled to leave Brown off the ballot late Thursday, one day after issuing a stay blocking Sinatra’s order.

The Walton campaign, as expected, welcomed the state ruling.

Brown for Buffalo campaign manager Conor Hurley, in turn, issued a written statement late Thursday evening: “We are disappointed by the decisions in federal and state court today. We believe that the initial rulings were correct and properly granted ballot access for the Mayoral election in the City of Buffalo. Despite our disappointment, we respect the Court’s decisions and will not disparage or denigrate anyone involved in them, as our opponent and her supporters have done over the last two weeks. Our campaign remains focused on what has sustained us all along, which is ensuring that Buffalo’s progress continues, and that no matter what method people vote by, that they will have the ability to cast their vote for a qualified and experienced candidate. In November, Mayor Byron Brown will prevail. Write Down Byron Brown.”

The Erie County Board of Elections will mail out absentee ballots Friday to military and federal personnel eligible to vote for Buffalo mayor and those ballots will not include Brown’s name.

Brown may still run as a write-in candidate. He is one of three candidates actively seeking write-in votes, along with Benjamin Carlisle and Jaz Miles. His campaign can also still file appeals.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.