Socialism? Expect to hear a lot about it in the lead up to Buffalo’s mayoral election

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When incumbent Mayor Byron Brown launched his write-in campaign for a fifth term on Monday, he did little to try to hide one of the highlights of his campaign strategy, painting Democratic nominee India Walton as a “radical socialist”.

“People are fearful about the future of our city,” Brown said. “They are fearful about the future of their families. They are fearful about the future of their children. They have said to me that they do not want a radical socialist occupying the mayor’s office in Buffalo City Hall.”

Walton, the self-described democratic socialist who shocked Buffalo by beating Brown in the Democratic primary, wasted no time firing back on Tuesday.

“The only thing that is radical about this campaign is that this is a radical act of love,” she said.

Jacob Neiheisel, a political science professor at the University at Buffalo and an expert in symbolic politics, believes this theme will linger throughout the campaign in the leadup to Election Day on November 2nd.

“It is a bit of a critical case study,” Neiheisel said. “It has a lot of the trappings where you would expect the label to be at issue.”

A 2019 Monmouth poll found that 10% of Americans viewed socialism favorably at that time. Meanwhile, 42% had a negative view of socialism. But Neiheisel suggests those numbers are on the move, and could differ in the Queen City.

“Not surprisingly, the further we get away from the Cold War, the more that number changes, and it changes between generations,” he said. “It has been a moving target, if you will. But America at large is not Buffalo. It’s not the largely Democratic electorate in the city.”

Election Day is November 2nd.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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