This is part of a series looking at each candidate running for mayor of Syracuse. You can find our stories featuring the other candidates for Syracuse mayor at the bottom of this page.
For the first time in history, a candidate without an affiliation to either the Democratic or Republican Party could become mayor of Syracuse. But Democratic critics of independent Ben Walsh’s candidacy have repeatedly called him a Republican in sheep's clothing.
When you walk into Walsh for Mayor headquarters, the first thing you see is a picture of Ben Walsh’s grandfather, Republican William Walsh, taking the oath of office for Syracuse mayor in 1962. The Walsh name goes way back in Republican politics in Syracuse. Most recently, his father Jim was a popular Republican who served central New York in Congress from 1989-2009.
“For those that want to suggest that it means I’m a Republican or it has other connotations, I would encourage people to look at me for who I am and judge me on my own merits. But for those who want me to disassociate myself from my family name, I’m very proud of where I come from,” said Walsh.
He says he decided that party politics was not for him when he turned 18 and registered to vote, checking the no party designation.
“It’s a decision I never thought much about until I decided to run for mayor, and then of course everyone said ‘you have to pick. You can only get elected if you are a Republican or Democrat’,” he said. “And as much as I thought about that, and as history suggests they’re right, I couldn’t.”
So after both parties refused to support him, he was able to get his name on two ballot lines, The Independence line, as well as a hybrid Upstate Jobs/Reform Party line.
And without traditional party baggage, he says he’s able to run the campaign the way he wants with support from individuals in both the Democrat and Republican parties. He says it also means he won’t be pigeonholed by party labels.
“There are totally disparate issues that can fall under the same party label that doesn’t make sense to me. So I prefer to look at it issue by issue,” he said.
It hasn’t hurt fundraising. With a history in the economic development field, including a stint in Democratic Mayor Stephanie Miner’s administration, he’s raised the most of all candidates in the four-way race. He admits his non-party affiliation can confuse voters.
And his way of explaining it?
“I tell people I’m not beholden to party bosses, the only people I’m beholden to are the people of the city of Syracuse,” he said.