Now the question arises: Will Byron W. Brown serve out the term to which he was all but elected on Tuesday, or will he be tempted to return to Albany as the running mate to a gubernatorial candidate in next year's elections?
Brown won an overwhelming victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary, swamping South Council Member Michael P. Kearns with 63 percent of the vote to the challenger's 37 percent. With no opponent appearing on the ballot in November's general election, Brown's victory on Tuesday seals the outcome.
Both candidates' organizations combined to get an admirable one-third of registered Democrats to the polls, a strong turnout for a primary. Questions and investigations still linger and must be addressed, but twice as many voters saw the mayor as an engaged and accomplished leader, validating his first term, than saw a need for change.
Politically, though, the problems that emerged during Brown's first term still could weaken him, especially the allegation that the city halted a $12 million affordable housing plan for Buffalo's East Side because developers refused to grease the palms of some politically connected activists. Brown still needs to work to put such matters to rest, including his refusal to abide by the state Freedom of Information Law.
But first of all, a win is a win. Brown's victory leaves him politically stronger now than he was on Monday, and he will have a second term as mayor of New York's second-largest city.
But will he have a full term? Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo isn't tipping his hand, but many people believe he wants to run for governor next year and, given Gov. David A. Paterson's political weakness, many Democrats wouldn't mind seeing him do that. Brown, a former state senator, has been mentioned as a possible running mate on that ticket, and his victory this week can only add to his luster as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor.
The fact that Brown's triumph was largely due to overwhelming support in African-American voting districts -- Kearns won in several mainly white districts, where turnout was lower -- also can only add to his attractiveness to Cuomo, should he run.
Here's why. Cuomo ran for governor seven years ago, seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Gov. George E. Pataki. Standing in his way was then-State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who won the nomination only to lose the election.
But McCall, who is African-American, was thought by many Democrats, particularly African-Americans, to be entitled to the nomination and that hurt Cuomo's standing in that population. Were he to seek the nomination now, he would not merely be running against an African-American candidate but, unless Paterson bows out, against the state's first African-American governor. Brown's presence on the ticket could take some of the sting out of that prospect -- assuming the partnership was announced before the nomination was settled.
If Brown wins and resigns, the City Charter says the Common Council president -- at least until Dec. 31, David A. Franczyk -- will become mayor until a special November election. That future is far from set, and for now the mayor can enjoy his victory. His first order of business is to launch a successful second term -- however long it may be.