Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown staves off Democratic challenger with massive write-in campaign

Photos courtesy of @brown4buffalo
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown visits early voting site volunteers at the Hennepin Community Center on October 30, 2021. Brown, the incumbent, organized a write-in campaign to defeat the Democratic candidate India Walton.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has declared victory over Democratic Party nominee India Walton. As of Wednesday afternoon Brown held a 58.8-to-41.2 point lead. 

Walton is a nurse and housing advocate who had never held public office before. Brown is a 16-year incumbent seeking his fifth term of office. 

Brown — a former state senator and the previous chair of the State Democratic Committee — ran as a write-in candidate after losing the Democratic primary to Walton earlier this year. 

The primary shocked the political establishment and was considered one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. Walton would have been one of the first Democratic Socialist mayors in an American city, had she won.

Supporters of Walton include Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Bronx, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Brunswick, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-Brooklyn, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Brown was backed by Congressman Tom Suozzi, D-Glen Cove, and even received encouragement from the chairman of the state Republican Party Nick Langworthy, who tweeted during the early returns that “socialism has been defeated in Buffalo.”

As a write-in nominee, Brown faced many logistical hurdles, including the numerous ways a ballot may not be counted due to voting error, with either an error on the name or marking on the ballot.

In order to avoid voting errors with the write-in rules, Brown handed out ink stampers to many of his supporters. His campaign purchased tens of thousands worth approximately $100,000. The stamps are considered legal under New York state voting laws. Brown relied on the support of the Civil Service Employees Association and the Transport Workers Union of America to get the stamps to voters.

Byron Brown spoke on Tuesday night after the early results came in. “At the very beginning they said we couldn’t win, they said it was impossible to win … You can never count a Buffalonian out!”

Ballots will be counted until November 16, but Walton conceded on Wednesday afternoon, tweeting out a message to her followers: “One major accomplishment of ours is ending the era of complacent Buffalo politicians. No longer can they feel confident that they can rest easy in their seats of power.”