India Walton Concedes to Byron Brown in Buffalo Mayor’s Race

“It seems unlikely that we will end up with enough votes to inaugurate a Walton administration in January,” the democratic socialist wrote on Twitter.,

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India Walton concedes to the write-in incumbent, Byron Brown, in the race for Buffalo’s mayor.

The victory for Byron W. Brown -- a centrist and a lifelong Democrat -- was a stinging rebuke for the left wing of the party, which had celebrated India Walton's unlikely win in June.
The victory for Byron W. Brown — a centrist and a lifelong Democrat — was a stinging rebuke for the left wing of the party, which had celebrated India Walton’s unlikely win in June.Credit…Malik Rainey for The New York Times
  • Nov. 3, 2021, 3:32 p.m. ET

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In a shocking reversal of political fortune, Mayor Byron W. Brown of Buffalo has seemingly triumphed in a write-in campaign for a new term, besting India Walton, a democratic socialist who had stunned Mr. Brown in a primary in June and had drawn national attention as a champion of progressive values.

Mr. Brown, 63, declared victory late Tuesday, as ballots rolled in and it became apparent that write-ins would carry the day: With all precincts reporting, just over 41 percent of votes were for Ms. Walton and 59 percent were marked for “write-in,” or 23,986 to 34,273.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Walton — a first-time candidate — conceded to the reality of the math. “It seems unlikely that we will end up with enough votes to inaugurate a Walton administration in January,” she wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Brown campaigned for a fifth term with a feisty campaign and the help of a varied coalition of conservative and moderate supporters, as well as the backing of several prominent labor unions and a plan to distribute tens of thousands of ink stamps bearing the mayor’s name to allow voters to ink his name on ballots.

The apparent win for Mr. Brown — a centrist and a lifelong Democrat — is a stinging rebuke for the left wing of the party, both nationally and in New York, which had celebrated Ms. Walton’s unlikely win in June with volunteers and prominent backers flocking to her campaign in recent months.

That included Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx but traveled to Buffalo last weekend to campaign on Ms. Walton’s behalf.

For all of that, Ms. Walton was likely hurt by her lack of help from state party leadership, as Gov. Kathy Hochul — a Buffalo native — and Jay S. Jacobs, the chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee, declined to endorse her.

And while Ms. Walton had begun to draw the support of more Democratic establishment figures like Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, she was unable to translate the energy of her surprising primary victory into a general election win. She could not match the power of Mr. Brown’s incumbency and a campaign that tapped into a more moderate base that he persuaded to get to the polls.

In many ways, Ms. Walton’s candidacy has underscored a deeper rift in the Democratic Party, which has seen moderates like President Biden and Eric Adams, the mayor-elect of New York City, repeatedly scuffle with more left-wing candidates and elected officials.

Ms. Walton, 39, would have been a trailblazing mayor, as the first woman and the first Black woman to lead New York’s second largest city, as well as the first socialist to lead a major American city in decades.

She has an evocative life story as a single mother and labor organizer, a narrative that she leaned on in advertisements, some of which were paid for by groups like Working Families Party, a labor-backed organization that often supports progressive candidates.

The strength of her primary campaign surprised Mr. Brown, who largely refused to acknowledge her candidacy, having won past campaigns comfortably in a city in which Democrats far outnumber Republicans.

The mayor’s blase attitude changed radically, however, after Ms. Walton’s win, as he announced a write-in campaign, and attempted a legal push to get himself put on the ballot. That ballot effort failed after a pair of judges ruled against Mr. Brown in September. Still some political observers here predicted that Mr. Brown was the favorite, if only because of his 16 years in office and widespread name recognition.

Lauren D’Avolio and Dan Higgins contributed reporting from Buffalo.

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