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Buffalo’s mayoral democratic primary showdown

City voters will cast ballots in mayoral race Tuesday
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Posted at 7:02 PM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 19:02:57-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Voters in the City of Buffalo will be casting their ballot Tuesday in the democratic primary for mayor.

Incumbent Mayor Byron Brown is seeking an unprecedented fifth term as mayor, but two women are standing in his way.

7 Eyewitness News sat down with all three candidates to discuss some of the top issues important to city voters.

Mayoral campaign signs are scattered throughout the city for a three-way democratic primary showdown.

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India Walton, Le'Candice Durham & Byron Brown, facing off in democratic mayoral primary.

Brown has been in office since 2006, but India Walton, a nurse and activist and Le’Candice Durham, a City Hall employee at the 311 complaint center, both say it's time it is time for a new leader.

“Because residents they expect something to be done — their famous line is I’m a taxpayer,” remarked Durham.

“I believe the people of Buffalo are ready for a change,” replied Walton.

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India Walton working with campaign team.

Walton meet with her campaign team in downtown Buffalo mapping out strategies for the final leg of her campaign before Tuesday’s primary.

Durham also working with a campaign staffer at her office on Clinton Street on the city's east side to figure out how to ‘get out the vote'.

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Le'Candice Durham meets with campaign worker.

Both candidates say they believe Brown is barrier when it comes to change — something Brown disagrees with.

“I am running for mayor again to protect the future of this community and to build a better Buffalo for all of us,” responded Brown.

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Byron Brown, mayoral incumbent.

But to build a better Buffalo, I asked each of the candidates how they would tackle three top issues:

  • Gun Violence
  • Police Reform
  • Poverty

“I know that nothing stops violent crime like decent, living wage jobs — like ownership and a real stake in the community,” stated Walton.

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Past crime scene.

“The more people that we are able to put to work in this community — the less violence that we will see in this community,” Brown noted.

“We need more gun control laws — you know — I don't mind residents bearing arms, but the right way — not the wrong way,” declared Durham.

Walton help to lead the charge during last summer's Black Lives Matter protests in Buffalo, fighting for police reform.

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Buffalo Police during last summer's protests.

The Brown Administration responded, implementing several reforms, including a program to divert low-level offenders from the criminal justice system and a new behavioral health team to assist police on mental health calls that began last October.

“There have been over 800 responses to mental health calls without incident — 800 individuals diverted from the criminal justice system,” explained Brown.

“Police should be doing police work and not being social workers and outreach workers necessarily,” Walton said.

“We need our officers out on the streets. We need to build those relationships with our residents,” stated Durham.

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Buffalo view.

But Buffalo can't seem to dig its way out of poverty.

The U.S. Census bureau ranks Buffalo the third poorest city in the nation with more than 31-percent living below the poverty level, earning an average household income of little more than $31,000 a year.

One thing all three candidates agree on is funding to create jobs and opportunity, especially for young adults.

“We want to increase the amount of money we are paying those young people and we want to create jobs not just in the summer time, but year round. We think that will have an impact on poverty,” Brown said.

“I do feel a lot of frustration from residents of east Buffalo — that you know — they've have not enjoyed in the benefits of what we are calling the renaissance of Buffalo,” Walton described.

“Invest in our children — invest in our neighborhoods — improve the quality of environment,” reflected Durham.

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Voters.

Never during the primary have all three candidates met to debate. That’s because Brown was a recent ‘no-show’ at a debate with Walton and Durham.

Brown says as the city's top leader, he had no time.

“My time is precious — I don't have the same time that people who are doing nothing but campaigning. I am working everyday for the people of this community,” noted Brown.

“This is why a lot of residents don't vote. The Board of Elections is only expecting 18 percent turnout,” Durhan said.

“I think it is just very symbolic of the type of absent leadership that we've seen out of the current mayor,”remarked Walton.

The Brown Administration has not been without controversy over the last 16-years.

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City Hall raid in November 2019.

There's been investigations into an alleged ‘pay to play’ deal and in November 2019 the FBI raided the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency (BURA), that Brown chairs, with investigators wheeling out carts of documents.

More than a year-and-a-half later, investigators have released no findings. I ask the mayor what he has to say to voters about any alleged scandal.

“I’m still here right? — been here for 15 years, so, I would say that there are no scandals,” replied Brown.

Now it's up to city voters to decide who they want to lead the queen city.