Buffalo Mayor Odds: Unusual Battle Between Socialist And Write-In Incumbent

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on October 4, 2021
india walton

The Buffalo Mayoral election wasn’t exactly high on my list of places to write about political bets, but heading up to the land of #BillsMafia is what we’re doing this week, as we search for value in PredictIt odds in an unusual election between India Walton and incumbent Byron Brown.

The contentious general election rematch is taking place Tuesday, Nov. 2, between Brown, the current mayor, and Walton, winner of the Democratic primary and self-described socialist.

Is there betting value in this local battle?

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2021 Buffalo Mayor Odds

CandidatePredictit PriceEquivalent Odds
India Walton$0.34+195
Byron Brown$0.66-195

History

This is the second time this year these two have faced off, with Walton beating the incumbent in June’s primary election to become the Democratic candidate. Walton won the primary by a very narrow amount, which caused Brown to try and seek what would be his fifth term through a write-in campaign.

For a period of time there was some hope that Brown’s “Buffalo Party” would be able to be registered and he would be placed on the ballot as a candidate, but after a victory in court was overturned on appeal, Erie County printed the Buffalo Mayoral ballot papers without Brown on them, with Walton as the only candidate.

In 2017, Brown won his fourth term as a Democrat, winning just over two-thirds of the vote as the Democratic nominee, in an election where just under 44,000 votes were cast, before losing the primary this June, where 21,469 votes were cast.

The Case For Brown

The case for Brown winning again is that the electorate in a Democratic primary is not reflective of the electorate in the general election, which is broadly true. We see this all the time with both parties. Just because Bernie Sanders won West Virginia Democrats in the 2016 primary doesn’t mean that Sanders-aligned candidates will do well in a West Virginia general election, as 2020’s Senate race showed.

Throw in the fact that Byron Brown is a fairly easy name to have to write-in – as opposed to Lisa Murkowski, the most famous write-in candidate to win this century – and you can make a fairly compelling case that there are enough voters out there who might vote for their incumbent mayor over the untested outsider to make Brown a favorite.

The polls certainly agree with that notion, with both polls of the race showing leads outside the margin of error for Brown over Walton. This all looks compelling for the incumbent, until you remember one fundamental fact.

He’s not on the ballot, and that’s where this falls apart.

The Case For Walton

The thing about political betting is that these markets are not efficient, and they’re mostly bet on by people who spend way too much time thinking about politics and political outcomes. Trust me, I know. I’m one of them.

India Walton is the only candidate on the ballot, and she is the official candidate of the Democratic Party. At some point, your need for analysis beyond that fact is kind of irrelevant. Democrats are going to show up to the polls and vote for the Democrat.

The Murkowski write-in campaign is instructive here because of how rare it actually was to see a campaign like that win, and that was with a much greater amount of media attention on it, and much higher stakes. A local election, with low turnout and much less attention on it, will be even harder for Brown to pull this off and win.

Remember those polls that had Brown ahead? They prompted him as an option. Political polling ,when done well, is supposed to simulate the ballot that voters will have in front of them in the voting booth.

We know that prompted third party candidates almost always perform better in the polls than they do in the ballot box, and the reason for that is simple. When voters get in the ballot box, they vote for their party, and in that case, they’ll vote for the candidate on the ballot.

If Brown was some electoral juggernaut, why did he lose the primary? Yes, the primary electorate is not the general electorate, but if Brown has some magical pull with his constituents, why did he lose a primary? Why did over 11000 Democrats vote against him when he was the incumbent and his name was actually on the ballot?

Oh, and in trying to win over Republican votes, how many more Democrats are going to be turned off by Brown’s pivot towards the right?

We know from the 2017 election that 44,000 voters is a decent guess at the size of the electorate next month, meaning that India Walton has at least a quarter of the electorate behind her already, and she just needs to get something like a third of the votes remaining to win, which should be very easy to do given she’s the only name voters will see on the ballot.

Some number of voters who voted Brown in the primary will do so again in the general election because of loyalty to the incumbent, but plenty more will just vote for the Democrat, because that’s what Democrats do.

We know from the 2020 Presidential primaries that Democrats are much more party loyal than Republicans are. Once it was clear Joe Biden was the presumptive Democratic nominee, Democrats rallied the flag, and voted for him en masse in the general election and the remainder of the primary season.

Yes, some Sanders supporters held the flag for their choice, but the party united around the candidate who would have the D beside their name on the ballot.

India Walton is the only candidate on the ballot and the official candidate of the Democratic Party, and she’s running against a write-in candidacy of a four-term incumbent who was unable to beat her when his name was actually on the ballot. Now that it’s not – now that the level of difficulty is ramped up for Brown – he is still, for some reason, the betting market favorite.

He shouldn’t be.

India Walton is not a lock to win the Buffalo Mayoral Election next month, but it is quite the argument to suggest someone who isn’t even on the ballot itself is more likely to win than the Democratic nominee who is the only candidate on the ballot.

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