Candidates argue about Democratic status at Buffalo mayoral debate

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – During the second and final Buffalo mayoral debate Wednesday, Byron Brown and India Walton argued about the Democratic nominee’s place in the party.

Walton, a self-described “democratic socialist”, defeated the four-time incumbent Brown in a June primary. But Brown, who once served as the chairman of New York State Democrats, made clear he doesn’t believe she should be designated as a “Democrat”.

“I don’t see Miss Walton as a Democrat,” Brown said. “If you look at publications that she has been in all across the country, she’s described as a socialist.”

“I’m the endorsed Democratic nominee for mayor of Buffalo,” Walton responded. “We’ll start with that. I won the Democratic primary. Secondly, I am a self-avowed democratic socialist. The first word in that is ‘democratic.'”

WATCH: Buffalo mayoral debate between India Walton, Byron Brown, Benjamin Carlisle (full video)

Brown is continuing his campaign after the primary defeat with a write-in effort. Brown, Walton, and Ben Carlisle, another write-in candidate, debated at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Tonawanda.

The party is split over its support in this race. Some statewide Democrats, such as Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have endorsed Walton. The Erie County Democratic Committee is also supporting Walton.

However some local Democrats, including Councilmen Chris Scanlon and Ulysees Wingo, have supported Brown. Others, like Governor Kathy Hochul, have stayed away from making any endorsement.

“I think the fact that I’m endorsed by Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand proves that I’m not the divisive candidate. I’m the candidate that is the bridge that is bringing the progressive part of the Democratic Party together with the more moderate part of the Democratic Party,” Walton said.

Carlisle, who recently left the Democratic Party, expressed concern about the direction of the party.

“The Democratic Party, if they keep going this far to the left will be a tiny, little regional party. And they will have zero control in this country.”

Despite his write-in status, Brown leads Walton in the polls by nearly 18 points. Election Day is next week Tuesday.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.

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