What does Walsh’s win mean for party politics in Syracuse?

Nov 9, 2017

Syracuse independent Mayor-elect Ben Walsh’s decisive win on Tuesday could be seen as an opening for more independent candidates to successfully run for office in the future.

For Walsh to have won, several factors had to come into play according to Grant Reeher, professor of political science at Syracuse University and Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Walsh had name recognition, coming from a family of former Republican elected officials. Reeher said it was a paradox of Walsh’s campaign.

“He’s a consummate insider who was somehow able to run as the outsider, the challenger, which is strange, particularly for someone with his last name and connections,” Reeher said.

Reeher said Walsh was seen as a sensible problem solver, put in the middle of heated political rhetoric. That may have also helped Walsh with fund-raising. But Reeher said Walsh’s win does not conclude anything more broadly about the Democratic or Republican parties.

“Ben Walsh’s candidacy and his success was a phenomenon unto himself, which can be explained by things about him as an individual, and about the field he was running in,” Reeher said. "This doesn't say anything about some other independent candidate saying if Ben Walsh can do it, then generic independent candidate "X" is going to be able to do it. No, generic independent candidate "X" has to have the last name Walsh, and has to have this and that and has to be running in a field that helps that person in important ways."

Reeher said Democratic elites were not excited about their candidate Juanita Perez Williams, which hurt her in fundraising and voter mobilization. Republicans abandoned their candidate, Laura Lavine, most likely for Walsh. And Reeher said Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins’ progressive platform took away a little support from Perez Williams.