BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Buffalo activist India B. Walton, who is challenging Mayor Byron W. Brown in this month’s Democratic primary, called Thursday on Brown to stop accepting campaign cash from city employees.
“You shouldn’t have to support someone because that’s where your bread is buttered,” she said. “You should be able to do what you believe is inherently right.”
Walton’s campaign released data showing that 36 percent of Brown's recent donors work for the city. Those include officials at the top of the police and fire departments, permits and inspections workers, city lawyers, policy aides and dozens of rank-and-file staffers who shelled out more than $37,000 for Brown in the most recent filing period.
Walton, the former executive director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, said some staffers have told her they feel pressured to donate to the four-term incumbent mayor instead of her if they want to keep their jobs.
“It’s an unspoken truth,” Walton said. “I think everybody in Buffalo knows that.”
Civil servants have long been a source of campaign contributions for Brown and his predecessors. Through spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge, the mayor declined an interview request but issued a written statement.
"Mayor Brown's campaign is transparent about the sources of his campaign contributions, which reflect a broad and diverse coalition of individuals and businesses, consisting of hundreds of unique donors, who believe that he is the best candidate for Mayor," Brown's campaign office stated. "The Brown campaign does not solicit city employees. City employees, like any individual, are free to contribute if they choose to do so."
Brown's campaign claimed Walton has also accepted money from city workers and gave the names of two city employees. Walton's campaign provided a spreadsheet with the names and titles of 68 city workers who donated to Brown.
State election records show that Brown has raised nearly $180,000 this year, while Walton has raised nearly $91,000. Walton said she’s also not accepting money from large developers or political action committees established by corporations.
Primary day -- which typically decides the outcome of the mayor’s race in heavily Democratic Buffalo -- is June 22.
If re-elected, Brown -- the city’s first Black mayor -- would become the first Buffalo mayor elected to five terms. Walton, if elected, would become the first female mayor in Buffalo history and the first Buffalo mayor to be a woman of color.