Two weeks before the June 22 primary, we endorsed Mayor Byron W. Brown for a fifth term in office. As we stated then, we respect India Walton’s intelligence, confidence and commitment to public service, but being mayor of New York’s second-largest city is not an entry-level job.
Walton is a former school nurse and has been an effective community organizer. She put together an impressive political operation that enabled her to score a historic upset in the Democratic primary.
Brown’s only hope to keep his office is for voters to write him in on their ballots in November. That’s a tall hill to climb, but not an insurmountable one. Buffalo deserves a choice, which Brown’s write-in campaign will give them.
Walton’s victory in the Democratic primary was beyond dispute. Brown would need nearly every single absentee ballot to come in with his name on it to overtake Walton..
But Walton’s win must be kept in perspective. In early voting and results from primary day, 11,132 ballots were cast for Walton. That is 10.5% of the city’s 106,417 registered Democrats. It represents 7.1% of the city’s total registered voters, though only Democrats could vote in the party primary.
Walton won the primary fair and square. But mounting a write-in campaign does not mean that Brown gets a “do over.”
There is no moving of the goalposts to give the mayor a minor party ballot line that he did not earn. Brown is not resorting to a desperate “stop the steal” campaign, as former President Donald Trump did after his loss to President Biden.
Buffalo voters are not exactly having second thoughts about Walton, because most didn’t give her a thought in the first place. About 20% of registered Democrats bothered to show up on Election Day.
It’s also obvious that Brown did not pay enough attention to defeating his challenger in the primary. He refused to debate Walton and mostly ignored her and the other challenger, Le’Candice Durham. That strategy was a mistake – disrespectful of voters and presumptuous. In his announcement of his write-in campaign on Monday, he tacitly acknowledged that failure by promising this time to assemble an “all-star” team to help him.
There are enough Buffalonians concerned about having an inexperienced and self-proclaimed Democratic socialist take over the city’s top job that Brown’s write-in campaign has a chance to succeed. It would be irresponsible for our city to undergo such a drastic change based on such a small number of primary voters.
The Walton campaign will undoubtedly resent having to mount a new campaign for a race they seemed to have already won, but Brown’s write-in campaign is legal and above board. Democracy demands that every voter be encouraged to exercise his or her franchise, and that every vote be counted. The competitors all knew the rules going into the race.
The News’ report that former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra and Delaware Council Member Joel P. Feroleto are considering write-in campaigns of their own is puzzling. Giambra could have sought the Republican nomination for mayor. The local GOP did not put up a candidate. We hope neither mounts a write-in campaign. In Walton vs. Brown, the city has its clearest choice.
Brown seemed re-energized on Monday in his remarks announcing his write-in candidacy, showing the fiery personality that people who have displeased the mayor have witnessed. His write-in effort will also galvanize Walton’s supporters into redoubling their efforts. Political aficionados should get their popcorn ready for a fight to the finish on Nov. 2.
Whether Buffalo charts a new course or stays with the status quo, all voters in the city should have their say. Now, they will have that chance.
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