If Democratic mayoral candidate Juanita Perez Williams is elected, she will be only the second woman elected as mayor of Syracuse and the first Latina mayor in the state. But the endorsement of three, female Democratic officials for Perez Williams' opponent, independent candidate Ben Walsh, has widened a rift in the Democratic Party.
Syracuse Common Councilor Helen Hudson, who is running for president of the Council, said her support of Walsh is a reaction to the negative theatrics of national politics.
"Ben Walsh is a calm, quiet spirit and for me, that’s what we need in a leader," Hudson said at a recent campaign event. "We need calm, we need quiet, and we need a good spirit to move the city of Syracuse forward."
When asked if she felt she needed to run her endorsement by Democratic leaders, Hudson was adamant on her decision.
"I am 57 years old and I don’t have to ask anyone's permission to do anything," Hudson said.
Onondaga County Legislator Monica Williams, who is African American, said candidates will sometimes take for granted the votes of minorities.
"People think that because they talk to us that we’re supporting them," Williams said. "They come in and say, 'I have all the black and brown votes.' You don’t know that until you have conversations with us. I'm standing here today not just for me, but there are other women of color who are in positions that cannot be here, but are also supporting Ben Walsh."
School Board Commissioner Katie Sojewicz also endorsed Walsh.
Some Democrats, including Perez Williams, question Walsh's independence and call him a Republican. He comes from a prominent Republican family in the city. His father, Jim Walsh, represented central New York in Congress from 1989-2009. His grandfather, William Walsh, was mayor of Syracuse from 1961-1969.