A federal appellate court and federal appeals court both ruled Thursday that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown can’t appear on the mayoral ballot in November. Brown has attempted to launch a third party campaign after losing the Democratic primary to socialist India Walton.
The twin defeats mean that Brown officially cannot appear on the ballot, though he may still continue to urge supporters to write him in. Although Brown’s campaign had penned a petition to allow him to appear on the ballot, they turned in the petition months after the deadline to appear as a third party candidate had passed.
“We are very glad the Fourth Department [appellate court] has upheld the rule of law. Buffalo voters deserve clear, transparent election laws,” said Walton in a statement. “If everyday Buffalonians are late on rent, parking fees, or school assignments, they face consequences. There is no reason the rules should not apply to my GOP-backed opponent as well.”
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Brown’s campaign had argued that not allowing his name to appear on the ballot was unconstitutional and would be violating voters’ right to choose.
The Erie County board of elections argued in response that Brown’s challenge, if successful, would sow “chaos.” If Brown, the incumbent mayor, was allowed to file to appear on the ballot so far after the deadline had passed, then there would be no reason to not accept other late entries to the ballot — essentially nullifying the deadline.
Brown and many of the establishment Democrats in the area have been fighting fiercely to keep Walton from winning the mayorship. After Walton won the mayoral primary in June, Brown refused to accept defeat, evoking Republican strategies to undermine the legitimacy of the election.
Meanwhile, establishment Democrats like longtime Brown ally and disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo aligned themselves against Walton. Democratic leaders on Buffalo’s Common Council went to extreme lengths, exploring the possibility of axing the mayorship entirely just to avoid having Walton become mayor.
Meanwhile, Brown even courted Republicans and right-wing elements to sign the petition for his third party bid. Local news outlets also tried digging up skeletons in Walton’s closet, publishing negative claims without evidence.
“Today is a great day,” Walton said in a video after the appellate court’s decision. “But we still have a ways to go. This is going to be a huge fight. They’re spending tons of money slandering me in ads.”
Brown will likely still continue to run his write-in campaign, which he launched just days after he lost the primary against Walton.
Walton has run on a campaign of transparency around public safety and divesting from police departments. If she wins in November, she will be the first socialist mayor of a major U.S. city in over 60 years.