Mayor Byron W. Brown easily won a third term Tuesday, capturing 70 percent of the vote over an energetic but underfunded Republican challenger, Sergio R. Rodriguez, according to an unofficial tally of 93 percent of ballots cast.
Brown, 55, ran on a platform that highlighted obvious signs of economic development in the city – including new buildings at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a $172 million hockey and hotel complex on the waterfront – as well as the city’s improved credit rating and lower taxes over his eight years as mayor.
He alluded to some of that in his victory speech Tuesday night at his campaign headquarters in Statler City downtown.
“Tonight, the voters spoke loud and clear,” Brown told cheering supporters. “I’ve been told we won all nine Council districts. Voters strongly supported our message of progress in Buffalo.”
Nearly eight out of 10 voters think the city is on the right track, according to Siena College polls from August, which smoothed the path for Brown’s re-election.
“The next four years, we’ll continue to build and market Buffalo’s strengths and successes,” Brown said in his brief victory speech. “Tonight is about where Buffalo is going.”
Brown’s campaign war chest, which allowed him to spend $1.2 million on his re-election efforts, as well as the benefits of incumbency and support from other prominent Democrats and the business community also helped his cause.
He did not appear to suffer politically from problems in the city’s public schools, including frequent rebukes from the state education commissioner and hundreds of children in failing schools who are unable to transfer to better ones. His opponents hammered him on that during the primary debates, pointing to New York City, where the mayor sought – and obtained – control over the schools.
However, Brown has no statutory authority over school district operations in Buffalo, and voters did not appear to lay blame for problems in the district at his feet.
For his part, Brown continually challenged his opponents’ facts, particularly on crime, and insisted that the city is moving in the right direction.
Brown debated Rodriguez, 33, and former FBI special-agent-in-charge Bernard A. Tolbert, his Democratic primary challenger, three times before the primary. But once Brown defeated Tolbert with 69 percent of the vote, Brown and Rodriguez were seldom, if ever, seen together. Brown did not participate in debates or candidate forums that Rodriguez attended once they were the only two candidates left. Once the primary was over, Brown barely acknowledged Rodriguez, who ran without significant help from the Republican Party.
Rodriguez was a passionate debater, kept knocking on voters’ doors, was active on social media and tried to attract attention from traditional news outlets through frequent news releases. He also took the bold stand of saying that he would seek control of the city’s troubled school district.
And despite Brown’s contention that the city is headed in the right direction, Rodriguez pointed out the city’s persistently high rate of poverty – it is the fifth-poorest big city in the country – and the Brown administration’s misuse of federal anti-poverty funds.
But the Republican Rodriguez raised just $23,390 and got virtually no support from party headquarters. And though he created a “progressive” ballot line to appeal to Democrats, his campaign never caught on with voters in a city that is 73 percent Democrat.
News staff reporter Deidre Williams contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org