2021 Buffalo mayoral election

The 2021 Buffalo mayoral election was held on November 2, 2021. Democratic Mayor Byron Brown won his fifth-term in office as a write-in candidate.[1] Brown's victory marked the first time since 1985 that Buffalo did not elect the Democratic nominee for mayor.

2021 Buffalo mayoral election
Flag of Buffalo, New York.svg
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  Byron W. Brown (cropped).jpg
Nominee Byron Brown (write-in) India Walton
Party Democratic Democratic
Popular vote 38,108 25,806
Percentage 59.39% 40.22%

2021 Buffalo mayoral election results map by city council district.svg
2021 Buffalo mayoral election results map by precinct.svg
Brown:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%      80–90%      >90%
Walton:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%      80–90%
Tie:      40–50%      50%
No votes:      

Mayor before election

Byron Brown
Democratic

Elected Mayor

Byron Brown
Democratic

Four-time incumbent Democratic Mayor Byron Brown lost the June Democratic primary to India Walton, a political activist and nurse. Brown chose to run in the general election as a write-in candidate, and then attempted to obtain ballot access, but continued as a write-in when he was unable to secure a place on the ballot. The race attracted national attention as a proxy battle between progressives and moderates with Walton running as a socialist, and Brown running with moderate Democratic as well as Republican support.[2] In addition to Brown, there were at least three other write-in candidates.

On the night of November 3, 2021, Brown declared his victory over Walton although tabulation of the write-in votes in Erie County (of which Buffalo is a part of) would not commence until November 17.[2] The day after the election, Walton released a statement stating that although a victory "seems unlikely," her campaign would not concede until all votes were counted.[3] Brown's victory became official on November 19, 2021.[1]

Brown's victory made him the longest serving Mayor of Buffalo once he began his fifth term on January 1, 2022, breaking the record held by James D. Griffin.[4]

BackgroundEdit

Byron Brown was elected as mayor of Buffalo, New York, in the 2005 mayoral election, becoming the first black mayor of Buffalo.[5] He was reelected in the 2009 election after defeating common councilor Michael P. Kearns in the Democratic primary.[6][7] He won reelection in the 2013 election.[8] Brown defeated Comptroller Mark J. F. Schroeder in the Democratic primary and the general election in 2017.[9][10] Brown's four previous terms as mayor made him the longest-serving mayor of Buffalo alongside James D. Griffin.[11]

Primary campaignEdit

Democratic primaryEdit

Scott J. Wilson Jr., a nineteen year old who had worked for Comptroller Mark J. F. Schroeder and unsuccessfully ran for comptroller in 2017, announced his campaign for mayor on June 13, 2020, but he did not collect enough signatures to appear on the primary ballot.[12][13] India Walton, a longtime member of Families Against Mandatory Minimums and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, executive director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, announced her campaign on December 13, 2020.[14][15] Le’Candice Durham, a compliance clerk for Buffalo's 3-1-1 line, ran in the election.[16]

Brown announced that he would seek reelection to a fifth term on February 25, 2021, through a video on Facebook.[11] During the primary campaign his campaign spent $71,000, which was less than the $360,000 he had spent during the 2017 primary, he refused to participate in debates, despite having participated in two debates during the 2017 primary, and his greatest expense during the primary was $9,730 on lawn signs.[17] Brown only turned in around 6,000 signatures to appear on the primary ballot which was less than the 20,000 he turned in in 2009, and the 15,000 he turned in in 2017.[18]

Late in the primary, Walton's campaign received a boost when New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams endorsed her and headlined several fundraisers to support her campaign.[19] Walton had previously received some local attention while active in the George Floyd protests, when she criticized Mayor Brown for his handling of the Buffalo police shoving incident.[20]

Walton defeated Brown and Durham in the Democratic primary, but Brown did not immediately concede.[21] After the primary Jeremy Zellner, the chair of the Erie County Democratic Party, stated that the party was in support of Walton.[22]

2021 Buffalo mayoral Democratic primary[21]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic India Walton 11,132 51.85%
Democratic Byron Brown (incumbent) 9,625 44.83%
Democratic Le’Candice Durham 650 3.03%
Write-in 62 0.29%
Total votes 21,469 100.00%

EndorsementsEdit

India Walton
State legislators
Local officials
Organizations
Newspapers
  • The Buffalo Challenger[25]
Byron Brown
Political parties
Newspapers

Working Families PartyEdit

The Working Families Party had supported Brown in the 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017 mayoral elections. Walton won the nomination of the Working Families Party, but failed to formally accept the nomination in time for the filing deadline. So the Erie County Board of Elections ruled her ineligible to appear on the ballot with their nomination under the deadline rules. The Working Families Party has raised over $230,000 to support India Walton notwithstanding.[18][28]

Other candidatesEdit

Wilson attempted to appear on the general election ballot as an independent candidate, but his petition was challenged by the Erie County Board of Elections.[29] His name did not appear on the general election ballot.[30]

Carl Paladino, who previously served on the Buffalo Public Schools board of education and unsuccessfully ran in the 2010 gubernatorial election as a Republican, considered running as a write-in candidate, but would only have run if Brown did not continue his campaign in the general election.[31][32] Paladino endorsed Brown in the general election, but withdrew his endorsement of Brown on August 26 and announced a boycott campaign instead, urging Buffalonians to neither vote for nor donate to Brown, Walton nor any other candidate.[33]

Other write-in candidates included Independent attorney Benjamin Carlisle, Republican candidate for district 141 of the New York State Assembly in 2020 Jaz Miles, and Republican sports booking manager William O'Dell.[34][35]

General electionEdit

Following India Walton's defeat of Brown in the Democratic Party primary, Brown launched a write-in campaign for the general election. Brown's staffers staged a rally outside Sahlen Field days after the primary to encourage support for his general election write-in campaign.[36] The president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association stated that Brown would have the support of the union if he ran as a write-in candidate.[37] Brown announced on June 28, that he would run as a write-in candidate.[38]

A majority of the members of the Buffalo Board of Education endorsed Walton on August 19, 2021. Board members Kathy Evans Brown, Hope Jay, Jennifer Mecozzi, Ann Rivera, and Lawrence Scott held a joint press conference to announce the endorsement.[39] On August 30, 2021, Walton publicly stated her support for Starbucks employees' effort at unionization in Buffalo.[40] In October 2021, Walton voiced support for elderly, veteran, and disabled tenants at Peace Bride Apartments fighting the owners of the apartments for lease renewals.[41] Walton also spoke in favor of increased funding and maintenance for city parks at an event at Shoshone Park in October.[42]

On August 19, The Buffalo News published an article on Walton, who was arrested in 2014 on a charge of second-degree harassment after Walton allegedly threatened to commit bodily harm to a fellow nurse at the Buffalo Children's Hospital. All charges against Walton were dismissed.[43] The Buffalo News separately reported, on September 19, that Byron Brown and his administration have been under investigation by federal authorities, including the F.B.I., for multiple allegations involving political donations and city government contracts since 2015. Many of Brown's close political advisers and employees have been interviewed and Steven Pigeon, a political operative who lobbied Brown's office on garbage contracts, pleaded guilty to arranging an illegal donation to the campaign of former Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a close ally of Brown. Brown has not been charged, but multiple investigations remain open.[44]

Brown attempted to appear on the general election ballot through a petition and court challenge as an independent, with the party label Buffalo Party, but ultimately lost the court cases and continued campaigning as a write-in.[45][46][47][48] Brown was placed on the ballot by Judge John Sinatra, who had been appointed by president Donald Trump. Walton criticized the ruling and accused Sinatra of bias, pointing out that his brother is a regular contributor to Byron Brown's campaign.[49] The Erie County Board of Elections and the Walton campaign appealed the decision, and on September 16, state and federal courts definitively took Brown off the November ballot.[50][51] On September 17, the Board of Elections began printing general election ballots with Walton as the only listed candidate.[48]

Brown's campaign accepted significant donations from individual Republicans and benefited from independent expenditures by the New York Republican Party, including mailers promoting his write-in campaign.[52] Brown expressed openness to accepting Republican support, saying “I don't see a conflict of interest because we're in the general election . . . I'm appealing to every voter.” Brown accepted significant assistance in gathering signatures for his attempt at ballot access from Republican activists opposed to Walton, including Republican elected officials, members of the Erie County Republican Committee, and at least one member of local far-right organizations, as well as members of the Conservative, Independence and Libertarian parties.[53][54] As part of his write-in campaign, Brown distributed "push stamps" with his name so that voters can simply stamp his name onto the ballot.[55]

Governor Kathy Hochul declined to endorse a candidate in the race, despite Walton winning the Democratic nomination.[56] On October 18, Jay Jacobs, Chair of the New York State Democratic Committee and close ally of former Governor Cuomo, restated his own refusal to endorse. He said that it is not a requirement for him to endorse every Democratic nominee. In a comparison that quickly drew controversy and condemnation, he used the example of not endorsing white supremacist former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke if he won the Democratic nomination for mayor of Rochester to explain his refusal to endorse Walton, who is African-American.[57] Many prominent Democratic leaders in New York called for Jacobs to resign following his remarks, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, and Congressman Jamaal Bowman.[58]

DebatesEdit

2021 Buffalo mayoral election general election debate
No. Date Host Moderator Link Participants
Key:
 P  Participant    A  Absent    N  Non-invitee  
Byron Brown Benjamin Carlisle India Walton Jaz Miles William O'Dell
1 September 9, 2021 Buffalo Association of Black Journalists
WUFO Radio
Al Vaughters Video P P P P A
2 October 27, 2021 St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute Ted Lina [1] P P P N N

EndorsementsEdit

India Walton
U.S. Senators
U.S. Representatives
State legislators
Local officials
Political parties
Organizations
Labor unions
Individuals
Newspapers and other media
  • The Buffalo Challenger[91]
Byron Brown (write-in)
U.S. Representatives
Statewide officials
State legislators
Local officials
Labor unions
Party officials
Individuals
Newspapers and other media
Declined to endorse
U.S. Representatives
State executives
Individuals

PollingEdit

Poll source Date(s)
administered
Sample
size[a]
Margin
of error
Byron
Brown (D)
India
Walton (D)
Other Undecided
Emerson College October 22–23, 2021 539 (LV) ± 4.2% 54% 36% 4% 6%
co/efficient (R) September 16–17, 2021 653 (LV) ± 3.8% 59%[b] 28% 13%
Emerson College August 7–8, 2021 862 (LV) ± 3.3% 50%[b] 40% 2% 8%

ResultsEdit

2021 Buffalo mayoral election[108]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Byron Brown (incumbent, write-in) 38,108 59.39
Democratic India Walton 25,806 40.22
Independent Ben Carlisle (write-in) 219 0.34
Republican Jaz Miles (write-in) 23 0.04
Republican William O'Dell (write-in) 8 0.01
Total votes 64,164 100%
Democratic hold

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Key:
    A – all adults
    RV – registered voters
    LV – likely voters
    V – unclear
  2. ^ a b This survey explicitly lists Byron Brown as a named candidate in a head-to-head against India Walton, despite him not appearing on the ballot

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

Official campaign websites