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Politics

Democratic Party boss says ‘we didn’t really concern ourselves with the mayor’s race’

Jeremy Zellner and India Walton
Jeremy Zellner
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Jeremy Zellner and India Walton pose for a photo outside the Erie County Democratic Committee office in June. Zellner, committee chairman, said Tuesday that the mayor's race wasn't a priority for the party.

The Erie County Democratic Committee endorsed Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown for the June primary before backing India Walton following her shocking upset. Now, after Brown’s apparent write-in victory, the leader of the party says they were always fine with whichever candidate won.

Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner told WBFO at Democratic headquarters Tuesday night that the mayor’s race was not even a focus of the committee.

“Whoever won the mayor's race, as far as we were concerned, was a Democrat. So we didn’t really concern ourselves with the mayor’s race,” said Zellner, adding the party prioritized county-wide races. “We wanted to win this comptroller seat, we wanted to win the sheriff's office, hold the majority [in the county Legislature] and so far we're going to hold the majority in the Legislature.”

Both candidates chose to have separate supporter-only events away from Democratic headquarters. Walton did make a brief appearance to thank her supporters, but immediately left for her private event, leaving questions about exactly how much support Walton had from the party.

“She was the Democratic nominee because the Democratic voters voted for her. That's what we respected was their voices and we endorsed her,” Zellner said. “She asked for some things, we worked with her and did everything that she wanted from us, and we feel like we serve her well as Democratic nominee. Now we’ll move on.”

Several local Democrats were hesitant to endorse Walton, a political newcomer and Democratic Socialist. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, declined to endorse either candidate.

Brown, a former head of the New York State Democratic Party, received support from the New York Republican State Committee and Republican donors. He also adopted several Republican talking points, routinely calling Walton a socialist and accusing her of wanting to defund the police.

As of now, it's unclear what impact any division may have on the party going forward. Zellner said the party has a plan if Brown is indeed confirmed to be the winner.

“We’ll move forward by the fact he’s a Democrat,” Zellner said. “We're a big tent party, by the way, and we've worked with a lot of India Walton supporters, who I think want to be part of this party.

“But clearly the voters have spoken,” he added.

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