The Erie County Board of Elections is waiting until Nov. 15 to open the write-in ballots, because that is the last day for military and overseas votes to arrive.
But with write-in ballots outnumbering Walton’s ballots 59% to 41% among in-person voters, Brown’s victory over Walton, a self-described democratic socialist, is all but assured.
“At the very beginning, they said we couldn’t win, it was impossible to win as a write-in,” Brown told supporters. “But you can’t ever count a Buffalonian out.”
The outcome is a remarkable reversal of fortune for both Walton and an activist left that had invested hopes in her after her upset win in the June primary. Walton was the only name on the ballot in Tuesday’s election and victories in write-in campaigns are highly unusual.
But Brown, a four-term mayor with sky-high name recognition and a major fundraising advantage over Walton, is no ordinary write-in candidate.
After mistakenly ignoring Walton in the primary, Brown ran an energetic general-election campaign, uniting the Democratic city’s numerous centrist and conservative voters, and successfully characterizing Walton as both unqualified and extreme. A public poll in late October that tried to simulate the effects of a write-in campaign found Brown leading Walton by 18 percentage points.
“The people of the city of Buffalo battled heart and soul for the remarkable progress we’ve achieved over the past 16 years and against those calling for ill-conceived policies that would reverse our progress,” Brown said.
Brown hailed his win as a vindication of those who oppose demonizing big business and law enforcement. He extended a “special word” of thanks to Buffalo’s police officers and firefighters, and declared that business executives and entrepreneurs are “not the enemy.”
If Brown ran on continuing the real-estate development and downtown revival during his tenure, Walton pitched voters on ensuring that ordinary Buffalonians shared in the city’s economic gains. She proposed building more affordable housing, taking steps to protect working-class Buffalonians from the disruptive effects of gentrification, raising property taxes to replace more regressive revenue streams, and cutting the police budget with an eye toward rebalancing law-enforcement priorities.
Walton delivered brief remarks to reporters on Tuesday night.
“This is definitely not a concession speech,” Walton said. “Every vote needs to be counted. Right now, it’s Walton against ‘write-in,’ whoever that is.”
Walton also skewered Brown for “actively cooperating and colluding with Republicans and dark money to defeat a person who is going to be a champion for the little guy.”
Brown indeed benefited from the largesse of major Republican donors, including LLCs tied to Carl Paladino, a real-estate mogul and former gubernatorial candidate with a history of making racist remarks.
But Walton, aware of the odds against her victory, alluded in her remarks to a career in city politics that will outlast her campaign.
“I’m not ashamed of any of the work that we’ve done,” she said. “I look forward to continue to work with the citizens of Buffalo, the working-class people, those who have gone unseen and unheard for far too long.”
Walton’s influence also was apparent in some of Brown’s comments, which implicitly addressed criticism that the city’s gains have been distributed inequitably.
“Together we will ensure that every Buffalo resident shares in the continuing revival of our great city,” Walton said.