Campaign Notes: Byron Brown’s “Buffalo Party” 



Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a lifetime Democrat, has signaled his willingness to accept Republican support for his write-in campaign against Democratic nominee India Walton in the Nov. 2 general election. And he’s got it. 

The independent nominating petition he turned in to the Erie County Board of Elections Tuesday tells the tale: Among those gathering signatures last week in an effort to get Brown’s name on a ballot were suburban Republican Party officials, Conservatives, and at least one member of the region’s robust community of right-wing extremists.

In fact, nearly one-third of the signature pages Brown turned in Tuesday were carried by members of right-leaning parties — most of them Republicans, most of them residing outside the city.

As it stands today, only Walton’s name will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. Because Brown, the incumbent, lost the Democratic primary in June, and didn’t pursue any other party nominations, his only recourse is a write-in campaign. 

However, earlier this week, Brown indicated he would try to create a new party line by filing an independent nominating petition. The deadline to do that was back in May, before the primary, but the Brown campaign has said it will challenge that deadline in court. 

Thus, Tuesday’s petition, aiming to create what the Brown campaign is calling the “Buffalo Party.” The petition comprises 257 pages containing more than 3,000 signatures — far beyond the 750 signatures required. All were gathered over five days last week, according to the witnesses who gathered them and swore to their authenticity.

And who were those witnesses? According to the Walton campaign, 72 of those pages bear the signatures of registered Republicans. Nine pages were carried by registered Conservatives, one by a member of the right-leaning Independence Party and one by a member of the Libertarian Party. The witnesses to 18 more pages appeared to be unaffiliated with a political party or unidentifiable. 

The remaining 156 pages were carried by Democrats.

Among the Republicans and right-wingers:

•Jesse Prieto of Buffalo, executive director of the Erie County Republican Committee and an aide to Nick Langworthy, the state GOP chairman.

•Frank Smierciak of Amherst, who nearly unseated Democratic •Assembly member Monica Wallace last year in a campaign notable for Smierciak’s harsh attack ads.

•Robert Matthews, a former chairman of the Lancaster Republican Committee.

•Brian Poliner of Clarence, a former GOP staffer for the Erie County Legislature.

•Elias Cobti, chair of the Newstead Republican Committee.

•Gay Thompson, an avid Trump supporter affiliated with far right-wing groups such as Freedom Fighters and Restore Constitutional Freedom to New York.

Democrats carried and witnessed 156 pages of signatures. Among these were numerous City Hall employees, many of them members of Brown’s cabinet and executive staff. 

These included Donna Estrich, the finance commissioner; Kevin Helfer, the parking commissioner; Brendan Mehaffy, the director of strategic planning; Gladys Herndon-Hill, the human resources commissioner; Michael Marcy, the director of intergovernmental affairs; Michael Seaman, the city treasurer; Jessica Smith, a top aide in the mayor’s office; Mike Finn, the public works commissioner; and Oluwole McFoy, the not-very-transparent chief of the Buffalo Sewer Authority.

Investigative Post is a non-profit investigative reporting center serving Buffalo and Western New York.

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