Byron W. Brown easily won the Democratic primary -- and with it a second term as Buffalo mayor -- trampling challenger Michael P. Kearns in a hard fought campaign that re-establishes the incumbent as a potent political force.
Brown scored a landslide, tallying 63 percent of the vote to Kearns' 37 percent, or 24,595 to 14,319, with 100 percent of the vote counted.
About 34 percent of the city's Democrats turned out, meaning 38,914 of the City of Buffalo's 112,037 registered Democrats decided the next mayor -- a relatively large turnout for a city primary.
The win on the Democratic line essentially ends the 2009 mayoral campaign, since no Republican appears on the ballot for the first time since the party was founded in the 1850s. And because Brown, 50, appears on three minor party lines and Kearns on none, the mayor now looks forward to another four years in the big office on City Hall's second floor.
Brown's supporters celebrated early at their headquarters at D'Arcy McGee's Restaurant on Franklin Street.
And at about 10:45 p.m., as several hundred supporters cheered and chanted "four more years," Brown claimed the voters had once again given him a "mandate."
As he did throughout the latter stages of the campaign, Brown accused his opponents of engaging in unfair campaign tactics.
"We proved that the dirty politics of our opponents could not beat the progress we have achieved since 2006," he said.
Brown thanked hundreds of campaign volunteers, unions and elected officials. He also singled out several key campaign operatives, including First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey.
"He is the best campaign strategist in the business and a very dear friend," the mayor said.
Brown said his second term will continue to focus on the goals he established when he took office nearly four years ago, including efforts to grow the economy and create new jobs.
Early returns showed Kearns posting a lead, but as more votes began pouring in from Brown's East Side base, those gathered at the headquarters of both candidates knew this night would belong to the mayor.
Kearns, 40, earned a healthy share of the vote considering the enormous advantages in money and organization enjoyed by the mayor. At his Buffalo Irish Center headquarters, he conceded around 10:30 p.m.
"I know this isn't easy, but it's something that needs to be said. I have to say congratulations to Byron Brown," Kearns said.
"We have not raised a million dollars, like my opponent, but we were able to attract something more important -- thousands of regular people who lent us a hand and gave us a wealth of ideas," he continued. "The time for petty politics is over. We need to bring people together.
"I believe Mayor Brown will be a better mayor because someone challenged him," he added.
And while gracious in praising Brown's campaign, Kearns stopped short of ruling out another run for office, maybe even mayor.
Though Kearns picked up major steam in recent days, Brown was still considered the favorite by just about all political observers.
And as Primary Day wore on, Democratic voters from all over the city weighed in on what had become a spirited, controversial, and much discussed election.
As the polls closed, a group of about 20 Kearns supporters gathered in the Buffalo Irish Center on Abbott Road to hear the results.
"It's a long shot, and an awfully steep hill, but I think he can do it," said George McRae of South Buffalo. "He's honest. He's fresh. He's gung-ho."
In a room filled with "Kearns for Mayor" posters, many in the crowd held out hope that their candidate would pull an upset.
"I get a vibe from him, a good vibe," said Niki Johnson of Buffalo. "I don't get that connection from Byron Brown."
Nevertheless, Brown was getting strong support over at the New Covenant United Church on Clinton Street in the Ellicott District.
"I would say I'd never seen so much work being done in Buffalo from the paving of streets to demolishing homes, and I've been here my whole life," said Nena Williams, 28, as she left the polls Tuesday.
"I voted for Byron Brown," said Luann Woods, another Ellicott District resident. "He's easy to talk to. People say you can't get to him, but I'm a nobody and I talked to him. He's out of the office showing his face. He's everywhere."
"I like the job he's done," added Shawna Soles, 29. "He's done a lot for the inner city, especially hiring more police. We need more police on the streets."
Some of Mayor Brown's campaign aides complained that a decision by the Erie County Board of Elections to consolidate a number election districts caused long waits.
"That is outrageous, totally unacceptable," said University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell. "Elderly people [were] standing in line, people with walkers, canes -- waiting."
Tuesday's results capped off a contest that started out slowly as few voters were familiar with Kearns. And Kearns came nowhere near matching the mayor's $1.1 million treasury.
But the pace picked up considerably in recent weeks as The Buffalo News highlighted the administration's handling of federal development funds -- as well as the mayor's association with Leonard Stokes, a former basketball star who ended up in the mayor's office after getting ticketed for having a stolen handicapped parking permit.
As a result, the mayor had to fend off a rejuvenated Kearns. The Council member also received a substantial spike in his campaign donations, especially from developer Carl P. Paladino. Paladino funded a spate of new television ads and dominated one local radio talk show on Monday as he waged a furious effort for Kearns.
A frequent Brown critic, Paladino said he was taken aback by many of the mayor's campaign claims and felt compelled to respond. He said it took "a couple of honest policemen" to come forth with allegations that Brown interfered with an investigation into allegations about Stokes and the stolen handicapped parking permit -- at about the same time a city development agency was providing risky loans to Stokes' One Sunset restaurant.
Brown, chairman of the city agency that issued the loans, consistently said he had little knowledge of them. While acknowledging he met with Stokes on several occasions, the mayor said he did not take any extraordinary steps to help him.
News Staff Reporters Phil Fairbanks, Brian Meyer and Jay Rey contributed to this report.