Byron Brown (D) defeated India Walton (D) in the general election for mayor of Buffalo, New York, on November 2, 2021. Brown, who ran as a write-in candidate in the general election, received 59.6% of the vote to Walton’s 40%.
Walton defeated Brown in the June 22 Democratic primary. Following his primary defeat, Brown announced he would run in the general election as a write-in candidate. Walton received 51% of the vote in the June 22 primary followed by Brown with 46%. Brown was first elected mayor of Buffalo in 2005 and won re-election three times before the 2021 election. Before losing the 2021 primary, he had won the four preceding Democratic mayoral primaries by an average margin of 26.5 percentage points.
A write-in victory in one of the country’s 100 largest cities is rare but not unheard of. Mike Duggan, the mayor of Detroit, Mich., advanced from a 2013 primary as a write-in candidate. And Beverly O’Neil won re-election to a third term as mayor of Long Beach, Calif., in 2002 as a write-in.
Before the election, the New York Times’ Jesse McKinley said the mayoral race “reflects the defining tension within the national Democratic Party, pitting its new generation of left-wing politicians against its more moderate establishment,” referring to Walton and Brown, respectively.
Walton, a nurse and community activist, said Brown had not delivered results as mayor, and that his record “showed that he doesn’t have much care … for the people of Buffalo, unless they’re wealthy developers or heads of large corporations.” She received endorsements from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the local and national branches of the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Working Families Party of New York. She also received a general election endorsement from the Erie County Democratic Party, which endorsed Brown in the primary but switched its support to Walton following her primary election victory.
Brown, who became the city’s longest-serving mayor in January 2021, said Walton was “an unqualified, inexperienced, radical socialist,” and described the general election as “a choice between proven results and false, empty promises.” He received general election endorsements from U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Common Councilmembers Joseph Golombek (D), Christopher Scanlon (D), and Ulysees Wingo (D), and former Mayor Anthony Masiello (D). He also received endorsements from The Buffalo News and the local, county, and state police benevolent associations.
Both Walton and Brown also received support from satellite organizations. The Working Families Party’s national PAC supported Walton with satellite spending, while the New York State Association of Realtors and the New York Republican Party supported Brown.
Sean “Jaz” Miles (R), Benjamin Carlisle (I), William O’Dell (I), and Taniqua Simmons (I) also ran in the general election as write-in candidates.
As of December 2021, 63 mayors in the largest 100 cities by population are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 26 are affiliated with the Republican Party, four are independents, six identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated, and one mayor’s affiliation is unknown. While most mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, most officeholders are affiliated with a political party.