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Mayor Byron Brown on appeals against his ballot line: ‘The law is on our side’

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, following a Sept. 8, 2021 news conference outside 1275 Delaware, discusses the appeals against his ballot line.
Tom Dinki
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, following a Wednesday news conference outside 1275 Delaware Ave., discusses the appeals against his ballot line.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Wednesday he’s confident about his spot on the November ballot, despite multiple appeals against it.

Last week, both a federal judge and state judge ordered the Erie County Board of Elections to place Brown, a Democrat, on an independent ballot line, despite the fact Brown missed the New York State deadline for filing. The judges essentially ruled the May deadline was unfair to the city’s independent voters who may want to vote for Brown.

This week, both the county BOE and Brown’s opponent, Democratic nominee India Walton, filed appeals against the rulings. The Walton campaign is challenging both rulings, while the BOE is only challenging the federal judge’s ruling.

Brown, speaking to reporters after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lancaster Square at Gates Circle, insisted his legal argument is solid enough to withstand the appeals.

“It won in two different courts, in the federal court and in the state court,” he said. “We feel very good about our legal position and we believe that the law is on our side.”

However, there are concerns that the judges’ rulings show favoritism toward major candidates with significant resources.

Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said during a public hearing Tuesday that it sends the message that any candidate with sufficient resources can challenge any election deadline. He also said it would undermine the public’s faith in elections, noting there’s already a perception that “this race is being conducted under two separate sets of rules.”

Walton, a political newcomer and Democratic Socialist who upset Brown in the June Democratic primary, has expressed concern that the federal judge who ruled in Brown’s favor, John Sinatra, is the brother of real estate developer and Brown donor Nick Sinatra.

Brown, a four-term incumbent who had been launching a write-in campaign prior to the judges’ rulings, said Wednesday that his fight to get on the ballot is about “ballot access” and “giving voters a choice.”

“During my entire tenure as mayor of the City of Buffalo, I have been a champion of ballot access, a champion of people's right to vote and that everyone who is eligible to vote should have the right to vote,” he said. “That's what our lawsuit was all about.”

The BOE faces a Thursday deadline to certify the November ballot.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.
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