BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo’s four-term mayor, Byron Brown, declared victory Tuesday in his write-in campaign as early results showed him with a possible lead over democratic socialist India Walton, the political newcomer who beat him in the Democratic primary.
The race remained too early to call, and in fact it was unknown how many people had voted for Brown, whose name didn’t appear on the ballot.
But early returns showed Walton trailing the number of write-in votes cast. Brown had asked supporters to put his name down on their ballots after his primary loss in June.
Thousands of absentee ballots have yet to be counted, and a full tabulation of the write-in votes won’t begin for days. But Brown’s lead was substantial enough that he declared himself the winner of a record fifth term.
“The people chose four more years of the Brown administration,” he said at his campaign headquarters, where supporters responded with chants of “four more years.”
“The people chose one of the greatest comeback stories in our history,” he said.
Walton, a 39-year-old nurse and community activist, is seeking to become the first woman to lead New York’s second largest city with promises to lift up residents left behind in the city’s resurgence.
“I am extremely proud of the campaign that we have run,” she told supporters Tuesday at a private watch party. “I am looking forward to seeing the final results come in and I am looking forward to working with all of our current sitting electeds and all of the winners tonight and community members to advance a healthy and safer Buffalo for all.”
The count of write-in votes, where officials reveal who the vote went to, is not expected to begin until Nov. 17, according to elections officials. About 5,100 absentee ballots were mailed out to voters, of which around 2,900 had been returned by this past weekend.
Ballots mailed by Election Day still count.
There is no Republican in the race.
The contest between between the two Democrats was another high-stakes matchup between the party’s center and left wings.
After losing the primary, Brown, 63, has relied on name recognition and an aggressive campaign that promoted his leadership over a city where property values and population are on the rise after decades of decline.
His campaign distributed thousands of stamps bearing his name that allowed supporters to stamp, instead of write, their votes.
Walton drove home her message with her own story as a survivor of “poverty, abuse and trauma.” She had a child as a teenager before returning to school and becoming a registered nurse.
She got endorsements from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and from the state’s two U.S. senators, but other Democrats sat on the sidelines, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo-area native.
Brown’s supporters called Walton unqualified and said the mayor had earned a fifth term.
“The Buffalo before Byron Brown was something to behold, and not in a good way,” said Lisa Yaeger, an attorney who supported him. “He organized and he was strategic about how he implemented change in Buffalo. Some of it happened quickly. Some of it happened slowly, but it happened.”
Walton’s backers said she would do more to address the needs of people who missed out on the recovery.
“A lot of the development that’s going on right now — you’ve got a lot of businesses but you don’t have the people involved,” Walton supporter Akua Assapa said at a recent campaign rally. “You don’t have housing for people, affordable housing that is.”