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Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown appears to win reelection as write-in candidate

Byron Brown addresses supporters after apperent election win
Emyle Watkins
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown addresses supporters Tuesday night. Brown may have secured victory, as nearly 60% of the ballots tallied so far are write-ins.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown may have completed his political resurrection on Tuesday, as he appeared headed to a general election victory as a write-in candidate nearly five months after losing the Democratic Primary.

The Erie County Board of Elections reports that 58.8% of the votes tallied thus far are write-in ballots. Although it will not be clear exactly how many of those write-in ballots are for Brown until hand counting begins, it’s expected the majority of them include Brown’s name.

Brown, speaking to supporters at about 10:30 p.m., had a triumphant tone while stopping just short of outright declaring victory.

“The people chose one of the greatest come back stories,” Brown said, adding, “the people chose four more years of growth."

Meanwhile, India Walton, the Democratic nominee and only candidate on the ballot, has received 41.1% of the votes tallied thus far. In order to win, she would need a significant amount of the write-in ballots to be for someone other than Brown.

Walton did not concede Tuesday evening and said she will wait for all ballots to be counted.

“She should look at the numbers and recognize that many more people wanted me as mayor than wanted her as mayor," Brown said. "The numbers are quite clear. It is a substantial difference in write-in votes versus votes for Miss Walton.”

With a victory, Brown would earn an unprecedented fifth term in office, as well as one of just a few write-in victories in a major election. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan won as a write-in candidate in 2013.

Brown, a former head of the New York State Democratic Primary, was defeated by five percentage points in the June Democratic Primary by Walton, a political newcomer and Democratic Socialist. Brown did not campaign during the run-up to the primary and declined to debate Walton.

At the time, Walton seemed all but assured to be Buffalo’s next mayor, as well as the country’s first Socialist mayor of a major U.S. city in 60 years; Republicans did not nominate a candidate.

However, less than a week after his defeat, Brown announced he was staying in the race as a write-in candidate.

Brown made a legal effort to get on the ballot as an independent candidate, despite being three months past the filing deadline. He was ordered onto the ballot by a federal judge and state judge, but ultimately denied after an appeals process.

Brown’s write-in campaign focused less on new policy proposals — there is no campaign platform on his website— and more on continuing what he calls the city’s“incredible progress.”

He has said that includes Buffalo’s 6.5% population growth in the 2020 Census, the city’s first increase in 70 years, supporting over $8 billion in economic development, lowering the property tax rate by 16%, and the building of 2,200 units of affordable housing.

At the same time, Brown, 63, has criticized Walton, a 38-year-old registered nurse and former nonprofit executive, as being inexperienced, saying residents did not want a “radical Socialist trying to learn on the job.”

Brown has said he stayed in the race due to the urging of “thousands of city residents.” However, his campaign garnered accusations that much of its support comes fromwealthy donors, real estate developers and City Hall employees.

His campaign received large donations from developers like Nick Sinatra, whose brother is the federal judge who originally ordered Brown on the ballot, and Carl Paladino, a supporter of President Donald Trump who Brown had promised not to take money from. A pro-Brown demonstration held outside the Toronto Blue Jays game in downtown Buffalo was attended by many City Hall employees and their families.

Still, Brown has maintained all city residents deserved a say in the general election, citing the low turnout in the Democratic Primary.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
Emyle Watkins is an investigative journalist covering disability for WBFO.