Ben Walsh, Syracuse’s first independent mayor, wins reelection for second term

Ben Walsh, Syracuse’s first independent mayor wins second term

Walsh held a comfortable lead throughout the night capturing 60 percent of votes while Democrat Khalid Bey won 27 percent of votes and Republican Janet Burman won 12 percent of votes.
Published: November 3, 2021
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh celebrates his re-election with family and friends on Tuesday night.
Mayor Ben Walsh celebrates his re-election with family and friends on Tuesday night.

Ben Walsh, Syracuse’s first independent elected mayor was re-elected a second time.

For two generations, the name Walsh has been ingrained in politics with Syracuse’s Republican Party. Now, Walsh is an incumbent of the independent party. Syracuse has not voted out any incumbent mayor in the past six decades.

Walsh originally sought the Republican nomination four years ago but wasn’t given a chance when he refused to register with a party.

Today, Walsh has won twice on independent party lines.

Walsh won with 60 percent more of the vote. Democrat Khalid Bey trailed with 27% percent of the votes. Bey conceded defeat around 11 p.m.

Republican candidate Janet Burman had 12 percent of the vote.

Speaking at a crowded room at the Marriot Syracuse Downtown Walsh thanked his supporters and family for helping him to a second term.

“A lot of people including the party establishment tried to run off 2017 as a flash in the pan,” said Walsh. “It wasn’t and we once again proved that a broad and diverse coalition that put peoples over politics, and consistently chooses to win.”

Bey said in his election night speech, his positions has not changed and will not be changing.

“The issues of that are important to people is job security, feeding their families and safe neighborhoods,” said Bey. “We’re going back to work tomorrow. There is remaining work to do.”

When asked about what Walsh’s hard-hitting policies, he will be focusing on in his second term the mayor said policing.

“We’re focusing on violent crime,” said Walsh. “We’ve been our property crime go down significantly but people aren’t going to feel truly safe until we address crime effectively.”

During this November election, only 19,300 people went out to the polls and voted.

Walsh will begin his second term on Jan. 1, 2022. It will be his last term as mayor.

Who is Ben Walsh?

With the start of the Walsh dynasty, William Walsh became mayor of Syracuse from 1962 to 1969. Walsh was the only one out of two to hold a Republican seat for the last century. After gaining national prominence in Central New York, he ran for Congress, representing Syracuse in the House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979.

According to The Post-Standard in 1987, the paper described Walsh as the “epitome of Onondaga County’s conservative GOP establishment.”

William’s son, James Walsh, followed his father’s footsteps by joining the Common Council in the 1970s. Then spent 20 years as Syracuse’s Republican Congressman. Two other children of William’s, Bill and Martha Walsh Hood, became judges in Onondaga County.

Now, 57 years after William Walsh was first elected mayor, his grandson, Ben Walsh, has just won re-election  for mayor in Syracuse. Despite coming from Syracuse’s well-known Republican dynasty, Walsh is decided to run on the Independence Party ticket.

“From my earliest memories, I was around people who served their community. My mother was a city schoolteacher and my father’s side of the family was heavily involved in politics,” said Walsh. “They demonstrated a true passion and commitment to this community.”

In 2002, after earning his degree in political science from Ithaca College, Walsh began his policy career working for Laborers Local 663, working on construction jobs around Onondaga Lake. However, he did not want to follow his family’s ties and stay in Syracuse.

One day out of the blue, Walsh saved money for a plane ticket to Ireland and interned for the Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern.

Walsh eventually returned to Syracuse to work as deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development under the previous mayor Stephanie Miner. He even decided to attend Syracuse University where he received his master’s degree in Public Administration.

“I was so honored to serve the city’s deputy commissioner for neighborhood and business development, and I am truly grateful to Mayor Miner for giving me that opportunity,” said Walsh. “However, as I served that job, my calling to public service grew. I knew the time had arrived to gain some different experiences and run elected office myself.”

Miner declined an interview request for this story via a spokesman.

Despite Walsh’s desires to leave Syracuse forever, the now 42-year-old ended up where he started. Before deciding to run for mayor, Walsh spent years trying to avoid having a career in politics, even though he had multiple government jobs.

Walsh thrived in scenes without a spotlight. People who know him describe him as a soft- spoken, calm, and collected guy.

Walsh began in late 2015 to run for mayor. He was hesitant to join any party and decided to seek a different path to gain political power. Walsh knew running as an Independent would be hard in Syracuse. About 56 percent of voters are registered Democrats and 14 percent are Republican.

In 2017, Walsh won with 54.3 percent of the vote or 13,013 votes. Democrat Juanita Perez Williams came with 38 percent. Walsh became mayor in 2017.

“When it became clear that I had won, it was pretty emotional. I was grateful to my family and to all the people who supported my candidacy. During my first run, I would frequently say Syracuse’s best days are ahead of it. I remember thinking how certain I was that is true,” said

Walsh lives on Austin Avenue on the west side of Syracuse with his wife, Lindsay, and daughters Breena and Gabrielle.

Tessa R. Howard

Mayoral race draws voters to the polls for Election Day 2021

On Tuesday, November 2, local voters headed to the polls to cast their ballots for a multitude of local and state elections.

Election 2020

Along with the mayoral race between incumbent independent Ben Walsh, Khalid Bey (D) and Janet Burman (R), voters will have their say in the race between Anthony Brindisi (D) and Danielle Fogel (R) for the New York State Supreme Court Justice for the 5th Judicial District.

Dozens of Newhouse School journalism students fanned out across central New York on Election Day for the Democracy in Action initiative. Check out highlights below, get the latest updates and follow on Twitter at @DemocracyAction

Generational ties to democracy bring families to polls

This election day, families of all ages made their way to the polls to cast their votes. Whether voting together marked a long-time tradition or a way to teach their children about the importance of civic duty, the Liverpool School District Offices on Blackberry Road was somewhere community members, friends and families came together Tuesday.

Liverpool residents Kristine and Mark Davoli strolled into the polling station hand-in-hand with their five-year-old daughter this morning. This isn’t the first time the couple brought their young daughter with them to vote. “We’ve actually brought her every time that we’ve voted since she’s been born because we do think it’s important to vote,” Kristine said. “I think it’s important for her to be able to voice her opinion in the future.”

Mark, who’s a web developer for Amsive Digital, said it was important for their daughter to learn about civic duties and develop those habits at a young age, noting the low voter turnout among young people. “I’ve been voting, pretty much, since I could vote,” he said. “A lot of teenagers don’t, so I’m trying to get her to understand from the beginning.”

Kristine, who works as a freelance graphic designer, said that she feels increased partisanship even within local politics, so making sure that she used her voice during this election was even more significant than usual to her. “I feel like some of the divide on the national level is starting to seep into the local level a little bit, so we want to make sure that our side is heard,” she said.

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A family waits in line at the polling station in Liverpool.

Stay-at-home mother and Liverpool resident Kristen Hallenbeck also brought her 9-year-old daughter to the polls to teach her about elections and how the country operates. “It’s important for her to come and have a voice in the government and society,” Hallenbeck said.

When casting her votes today, Hallenbeck said she placed the most importance on the five proposed amendments to the New York State Constitution. Hallenbeck said she felt fairly informed when walking into the polling station. “I wanted to make sure that I know what I’m voting for,” she said. “I don’t want to listen to what other people tell me. I need to prepare and educate myself.”

Unlike the daughters of Hallenbeck and the Davoli’s, Richard Ward II has many years of experience voting in local elections. However, the retired service technician used election day as an opportunity to come together with his father, Richard Ward I. The father and son duo arrived in separate cars and met up at the polling station together, later recalling how they voted together during the last election as well. The two said that they’re both avid voters, and have consistently participated in both local and national elections ever since they’ve been able to vote.

“My father was in politics [and] my mother was the mayor of the Village of Liverpool so I just was raised in politics,” Richard Ward II said. “I was always around it.” Retired Salina Town Supervisor Richard Ward I, like the Davoli’s and Hallenbeck, said he raised his son to understand the importance of civic duty.

Richard Ward I said that voting in this election was especially important “because of the condition the country is in right now.” He said the position of judgeship was the most important to him on the ballot today.

– Bianca Pineda

Syracuse Church holds 72nd annual spaghetti dinner on Election Day

Our Lady of Pompei is running its annual spaghetti dinner on election day today. The church has provided this meal annually for 72 years but for the second straight year it will be curbside pickup. Although, this year, the church has added an outdoor dining section for anyone who would like to sit down and eat right at the church. On a normal year, the church will have a curbside pickup option as well as indoor seating for all customers in their downstairs cafeteria. Last year, the church sold out of their 1,000 meal limit, so for this year, they have 2,000 meals made and it was done with a short-handed staff. Due to ongoing pandemic related issues, the volunteers present have picked up the slack. Some of the volunteers have even worked weekend double shifts to prepare for this big fundraiser. The staff said it made over 25,000 meatballs, 20 gallons of sauce, and thousands of pounds of pasta.

“We just work together to bring people together … to remind people, we, by nature have our differences and we don’t always agree, but we can get along,” Church Pastor the Rev. Daniel Caruso said.

Video by Adam Pankowski | Democracy in Action

The goal for this event has never changed and that is bringing people from different backgrounds, cultures, lives and beliefs together to enjoy a hot meal and get away from the election day stresses. The church wants this to be an example on a local scale of what the country can do to help cure the divides that are happening in our world today. Caruso said pasta can cure all differences and disagreements.

At around noon today, candidates such as Syracuse incumbent Mayor Ben Walsh and Democratic candidate Khalid Bey arrived at the church to mingle with the people of Syracuse, drop their “political pitchforks” and enjoy stress-free moments on their hectic election day agendas.

Many customers will come and go with their meals tonight. Some will pickup the single dish for $10, the half tray for $50 that can feed 6 people, and others will pickup the family tray for $100 that can feed up to 15 people, but all will be contributing toward the church’s biggest fundraiser of this year and every year.

The event will go on until 6 p.m.

                                                                                                                         – Adam Pankowski

Women’s right to vote reflection

Election Day is giving many voters a chance to cast their ballots and have a voice. Although women didn’t always have the voice they have today.

Suzanne Cucola, a poll site manager at the WCNY voting center, believes women should be voting, even though this is a smaller election. The fight for this right is too big to ignore.

“We’ve only had the vote for 102 years,” she said.

She said women are a big part of change throughout our nation. She said women died for the right to vote so it’s important to exercise the right.

“It’s about us being a part of the whole and realizing we make a difference,” Cucola said. “Our votes count.”

Women who fought for the equality of voting changed America forever according to the National Archives website.

“Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle—victory took decades of agitation and protest,” the National Archives wrote.


                                                                               Video by Krizia Williams | Democracy in Action

Cucola said voting opens the door for women to have a voice and contribute to society. She said it is hard to hear people complain about things when they didn’t vote to try to change them.

“Voting allows us to hold our politicians accountable for the things they say and the things they do,” she said.

She said this election is import because of what is on the ballot. It’s critical for voters to vote so this nation is the way they want it to be.

“We’re voting on a judge and we’re voting on five amendments to the New York State Constitution,” Cucola said.

For more information on the election be sure to follow Democracy in Action on twitter and keep an eye on the website.

– Krizia Williams

Poor student turnout at SU’s Huntington Hall

The polling station in Huntington Hall is home to many Syracuse University students.

In this year’s elections, turnout has been low here for the closest voting location to SU’s campus.

Polling manager John Hohl-Shambo said this is due to a lack of student knowledge.

“I would say the main cause is because it is not federally-based, you see, they’re local election-based, which typically will have less of a, error of understanding,” he said.

                                                                                 Audio by Bryce Gelman | Democracy in Action

However, some have more of a grasp on this process.

Matthew Ricciardi, a Syracuse University student from Boston, did vote in today’s election.

He changed his residence to vote in the college town where he now lives and studies but understands the lack of enthusiasm among his fellow students.

“I would say my age group, I think we’ve gotten better, but I’d say that it’s not at a level that it should be just because I think that my age group feels that it does not know the issues,” Ricciardi said.

– Bryce Gelman