Betty Jean Grant — the widely respected civic leader and former County Legislator whom many refer to as the ‘shadow chairperson’ of the Erie County Democratic Party — is calling Mayor Byron Brown‘s latest attack against Democratic nominee India Walton “vicious, slanderous, and misogynistic.”
The attack ad alleges that Walton is a welfare cheat because she was over-allocated food stamps in one month beyond the level she was entitled to. That over-allocation was repaid in subsequent months, as is apparently relatively typical of those on public assistance.
Brown is also accused of largely fabricating allegations against Walton that ostensibly stem from a dispute with a disgruntled neighbor in the Fruit Belt neighborhood where she once lived. Brown is accused of collaborating with Walton’s landlord — former Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill — to claim that he received regular complaints from neighbors who accused a former boyfriend of selling drugs from the house.
Walton denies the allegations and believes that Brown is intentionally crafting a racist narrative that aims to paint her with the ‘Welfare Queen’ stereotype that Republicans originally architected in the 1980s to propagate against Democrat opponents. Some of those same operatives — including Trump-confidante Mike Caputo — are now working to smear Walton with those same stereotypes.
Today, the tactics are widely understood to be racist by professional political operatives, pollsters, and academics, in that the advertising intentionally infuriates racial strife as a strategy to achieve particular electoral outcomes.
“What about this particular mayoral campaign has caused Mayor Brown to lose his soul?” Grant asked late Saturday evening on social media. “He let his arrogance and pride prevent him from seeing that a struggling but community-connected black woman from the ghetto could conceivably beat him in their election.”
Many of Grant’s followers on social media agree.
“I wasn’t going to put anything up about this mayoral race in Buffalo but I had to share this very disturbing stat that Betty Jean Grant put up and it really caught my attention and it’s not even about the race anymore, it’s about a man so desperate to win re-election by any means that he would stoop to a whole new level of cruel and disrespectful tactics and to label India Walton a welfare cheat is not right and it’s very offensive coming from a man in a high ranking position who I was starting to respect, but this is a real blow and Byron Brown should be ashamed of himself,” Monty Simmons wrote in a statement circulated on social media.
“India Walton came from the struggle, raised four sons, made some mistakes in life, we all have, nobody is perfect, she went on to become a registered nurse and now in 2021, she decided to run for mayor of Buffalo. She defeated an incumbent mayor who had been mayor for 16 years. She won because of hard work while Brown didn’t campaign, took her for granted, and lost the primary election,” Simmons explains.
“I feel like he’s stereotyping every black woman that lived in the struggle and I don’t think he ever struggled so he can’t relate at all. Many people are wondering how could an ordinary woman of color who lived in the struggle beat a powerful man like Brown and it has many people scared and worried,” he postulates.
“I don’t care who you vote for, whether it’s Walton or Brown, but please don’t disrespect this black woman, she did absolutely nothing to deserve the cruel and disrespectful, derogatory comments, pics from people and the sad part is this is what many white people love to see: two black candidates going at it by mudslinging,” Simmons writes.
The New York Working Families Party, which is enthusiastically backing Walton, is sponsoring a television advertisement in support of Walton.