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With a week to go, the elections depend on turnout

A week from today we will get a strong indication of how well India Walton’s campaign for mayor of Buffalo succeeded.  We may have some idea who was elected mayor but we won’t know for sure until sometime later in November.

Byron Brown’s write-in effort to win a fifth term presents some complications for determining the winner in that race.  His campaign is encouraging his supporters to both fill in the bubble in the write-in vote for mayor on the ballot and also write or rubber stamp his name in the accompanying box.

Walton’s vote totals on election night will be easily and quickly determined.  Not so for Brown.  Some Brown supporters will inevitably write in the name without filling in the bubble.  That will probably mean that a vote will be registered for Brown, but a ballot without a filled in bubble will mean that the election night count of votes will not necessarily indicate the true number of write-in votes for Brown (or for anyone else for that matter).

The Board of Elections generally doesn’t start counting write-in votes immediately after the election.  Even after the bubble and write-in numbers are counted there will likely be legal challenges on potentially hundreds of ballots.

The last week or so has seen a non-stop flurry of heavy-handed negative TV ads by both sides. Brown’s money continues to come mainly, but not exclusively, from big bucks local contributors. Walton’s local donations are accompanied by substantial out-of-town money. Between September 27th and October 18th Brown raised an additional $317,017 and spent $511,625, including $215,221 for TV ads and $80,000 for polling. Walton’s numbers are $191,349 collected and $342,756 expended; $130,224 went for TV ads. These numbers do not include outside PAC spending for both candidates.

Walton once again reported substantial undocumented contributions, this time in the amount of $78,518, bringing her campaign total to $300,327, nearly one-third of her total donations.

Thus far in 2021 Brown has raised $1,677,124 and spent $1,578,174.  Walton has raised $923,849 so far, an extraordinary amount for a challenger.  Her spending to date is $759,206.

Neither side is likely to convince too many undecided people to come out if they haven’t already made up their minds and it is even less likely that there will be many Walton-to-Brown or Brown-to-Walton voter switches.  The visit by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on behalf of Walton certainly pumped up her supporters but it may not attract many new uninvolved voters to come out or encourage any Brown voters to switch their allegiance.  It may even drive out some Brown votes.

In the past four general elections for mayor these have been the vote totals:

  • 2005 – 74,623 total votes; Brown received 46,613 (62.5 percent)
  • 2009 – 26,464 votes; Brown received 17,728 (67 percent)
  • 2013 – 38,179 votes; Brown received 26,120 (68.4 percent)
  • 2017 – 45,746 votes; Brown received 29,688 (64.9 percent)

While there was some degree of competition in 2005 when Republican Kevin Helfer ran against Brown, the other three general elections offer little guidance about what turnout will be on November 2nd.  There are 156,000 registered voters in Buffalo.  If more than 40-50 percent of them vote that would be an amazing development.  The main question is how far can either camp expand their primary election totals (Walton 11,718; Brown 10,669)?

At some point, probably already passed, one more or one hundred more placements of TV ads will have seriously diminishing returns in terms of affecting the results.  Minds are made up.  It all comes down to how many people care enough to vote.

A footnote to the race:  India Walton deserves much credit for her gracious comments about state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs following his totally stupid and disgusting statement about his failure to endorse Walton.

Other races

The campaign for Erie County sheriff is competitive.  There are four candidates on the ballot but it will come down to either a win by Kim Beaty or John Garcia.  Independent Ted DiNoto will attract a credible number of votes but not enough to win.  Votes for him may detract from Garcia more than Beaty.  Conservative candidate Karen Healy-Case is personally supporting Beaty.  The votes Healy-Case receives will mostly be taken from Garcia.

The closeness of the race is indicated by Garcia’s negative TV ad attacking Beaty, trying to connect her to Walton and the “Defund the Police” mantra.  In a story appearing in The New Republic Beaty indicated that her campaign is not linked to Walton’s.

The recent financials from the campaigns show Garcia with $126,465 left in his treasury as of October 18th.  Beaty has $75,719.  DiNoto has $8,194.

The race for Erie County comptroller has shown no clear advantage to either Democrat Kevin Hardwick or Republican Lynne Dixon.  That may have changed last weekend when the mailer paid for by Friends of Lynne Dixon arrived in the mailboxes of Buffalo Democrats stating that Hardwick supports Donald Trump.

Dixon, one of Mychajliw’s deputies, has said she will change the toxic culture of the office she has been employed in for the past two years.  The mailer demonstrates that there will be no change – she is simply following the troubled Trumplican direction that her boss uses.

A recent post reported on the high number of elections in Erie County that are uncontested.  I speculated about some of the reasons.  An email I received from a local political leader noted another major reason that discourages potential candidates:  “terrible negativity in campaigning!  There are no rules!  Candidates often use a scintilla of truth and then attack their opponent.  It happens on both sides of the aisle!”  Amen.

Hardwick has a TV ad up that draws a clear distinction between him and incumbent comptroller Stefan Mychajliw in terms of competence and integrity.

As of October 18th the Hardwick campaign had $14,467 in the bank, having spent $70,000 on TV ads. The Dixon campaign has $88,233 with no indication of TV ads.

In Hamburg voters are witnessing one of the slimiest campaigns in recent local election history as Republican Stefan Mychajliw continues to spread lies and hateful commentary on a frequent basis.  The details are not worth repeating.  Town supervisors have jobs that are often 24/7, making sure that the town’s services are delivered quickly, efficiently and courteously.  The election of Mychajliw in Hamburg would turn that responsibility on its head as Mychajliw would inevitably continue his political diatribes as he positions himself for a run at yet another office.  Supervisor is the fourth public office he has pursued in one form or another in the past four years.

One final note:  among the 17 Democratic and Republican candidates for the Erie County Legislature’s 11 seats, 13 have as of October 25th filed their campaign financial reporting, which were due on October 22nd.  Two incumbent legislators, Democrat Howard Johnson and Conservative Joseph Lorigo, have not filed either the required October 1 or October 22 reports.  Two Democratic challengers, Ronald Shubert and Peter Schwan, don’t even have committees registered with the state Board of Elections.

It’s almost over folks!

Early voting is underway

Here are links to early voting information from the Erie County Board of Elections and the Niagara County Board of Elections.  Early voting ends on October 31st.   Happy Halloween!


Ken Kruly writes about politics and other stuff at politicsandstuff.com. You can visit his site to leave a comment pertaining to this post.

Follow Ken on Twitter @kenkruly

Written by Ken Kruly

Ken Kruly

Ken has been a very active community participant in the world of politics for nearly 50 years. Everything from envelope stuffing to campaign management. From the local council level to presidential campaigns. On the Democratic side. A whole lot of politicians worked for, fought against, had a beer with. Now, "mostly" retired, Ken continues to have a great interest in government and politics on the local, state and federal levels. His blog, politicsandstuff.com provides weekly commentary and opinions about policy, budgeting, candidacies, and analysis of public issues. 

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