ALBANY — Fighting to remain Buffalo mayor — incumbent, write-in candidate Byron Brown slammed his opponent, India Walton, as a Democratic socialist and “apologist” for criminals, whose ideas are “bad at best” during a final debate Wednesday morning ahead of next week’s election.
Brown, a moderate Democrat vying for his fifth term, faced off against left-leaning Walton, who bested him in the June primary in a shocking upset similar to progressive darling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s own win against Joe Crowley in 2018.
“I don’t see Ms. Walton as a Democrat…she’s described as a socialist and I think her ideas for the city of Buffalo are bad at best, and unworkable,” he declared during the 90-minute debate at Buffalo’s St. Joe’s Collegiate Institute between himself, Walton and another write-in candidate Ben Carlisle.
If Walton wins, she would be the first openly declared socialist of a major city since the 1960s. But Brown’s victory as a write-in would be a massive upset after Walton clinched the official Democratic nomination.
According to a new WIVB / Emerson College poll released Wednesday, he’s boasting a 17 point lead over Walton. Respondents were forced to provide his name when asked if they preferred “someone else” other than Walton, the only name that will officially appear on the ballot next Tuesday.
“She is a failed nonprofit executive. She had a plan to build 50 houses. She didn’t build a single house when she was the executive director of a nonprofit organization,” said Brown, slamming Walton’s two-year tenure as top housing executive at the Fruit Belt Land Trust — a local land trust mainly funded by grant money and aimed at building affordable housing units.
He said since 2018, just two homes built were completed and they were done in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
“I think it’s important to know that the activities of my opponent, Miss Walton, made it more difficult for the police to do their job because they had to respond to protests. They had to respond to things being lit on fire. They had to respond to things being broken,” Brown said, slamming Walton for her pro-Defund the Police stance.
She was a prominent figure during last summer’s anti-police protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis cops.
“She is an attacker of police in the city of Buffalo and someone that has been an apologist for criminals. I don’t think we can make apologies for criminal behavior in our community.”
“Police respond after crimes are committed and don’t prevent them from happening in the first place,” Walton defended herself.
“I would also add that during the first protests, I was the one who was telling young people to stay home to not go out because we were not prepared and not organized. And when I got involved, there were no incidents of violence.”
Walton also accused Brown’s administration of prioritizing wealthy Buffalonians and the developer class, instead of increasing affordable housing options. Brown is also known for his close relationship with local real estate executives.
She added she’s the “bridge” linking the moderate and left factions of the Democratic party, arguing she won fair and square and has the legitimacy to prove it — endorsements from powerful, moderate leaders US Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
But Brown ran into glaring issues of his own.
When probed about his failure to take Walton’s challenge seriously and “minimal” campaigning ahead of the June primary, he argued he was busy managing the pandemic.
“My focus at the time was getting our community through one of the most critical public health crises that our city, our state, our nation, our world has ever faced. So I placed more focus and more emphasis there,” he said.
Brown also came under fire for his ties to a development company that secured lucrative city contracts and donated heavily to his campaign coffers over the years — that was also the subject of a recent FBI probe.
“There has been no determination that the administration is under investigation…We are transparent, if anything was being done wrong. I would no longer be mayor of the city of Buffalo.”
Brown meanwhile has received contributions from local Republicans — as the GOP doesn’t have a candidate in the race — and the state Republican Party sent out pro-Brown mailers to voters.
The trio did agree on one issue: they all would like to see the city keep the Buffalo Bills stadium, amidst reports that owners are seeking a location change.