SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Some Democrats in Syracuse are disappointed with a piece of campaign mail sent by their own party that tries to connect independent Mayor Ben Walsh with right-wing extremists who support former President Donald Trump and were involved in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The cover of the mailer shows a photo of the Proud Boys at a pro-Trump rally held in Oregon last year. Along with the photo, it reads: “For 4 years, it just kept getting worse.”
Then next page shows President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, reading: “Until we voted to make things a lot better.”
The third page shows Syracuse’s skyline with the text: “Now we have to do the same for Syracuse… Vote No On Walsh.”
The ad was paid for by the New York State Democratic Committee. The chairman of the Committee, Jay Jacobs, did not respond to an email from NewsChannel 9.
On the campaign trail this week, Walsh said, “I don’t get it. I thought it was odd.”
“They’ve got to take me down with something and why not an insurrection,” said Walsh. “I personally called for President Trump to resign after the insurrection.”
“Nobody’s talking about January 6th,” responded Khalid Bey, the Democrat running against Walsh.
Bey said, “I get the message. The message is: over four years, it increasingly got worse. Well that’s true for Syracuse. Violent crime has increasingly gotten worse, so there is a parallel there. It got worse until they voted differently.”
When pushed about using Walsh’s image on a same flier as the Proud Boys, Bey said: “When I see that image, what I see is lawlessness. What’s been echoed in the City of Syracuse is this increasing lawlessness. The parallel is actually factual. While we may not like the aesthetics, we may not like the colors red and black, I don’t know what the issue is. It doesn’t change the fact that we have real issues here in the City of Syracuse.”
City data shows that violent crimes have increased 15% over the past five years. The same time period shows a 15% decrease in overall crime because of a 23% drop in property crimes like burglary and larceny.
When Bey’s explanation was presented to Walsh by NewsChannel 9, Walsh said, “I don’t see it. I think it’s a stretch. It does a disservice to the people in Syracuse, the people directly impacted by those violent crimes to somehow associate that with what happened down in Washington. These are real people’s lives being impacted by violent crimes, that weighs heavily on me.”
The chair of the Onondaga County Democratic Committee, Pamela Hunter, told NewsChannel 9: “The fact is, things have been getting worse for the last four years under Mayor Walsh. Violent crime is up. Unemployment is up. Property taxes have gone up. Syracuse residents know this is true and deserve to have the facts so they can make an informed decision when they vote. New leadership is necessary if we want to build a safer, fairer city for all our families.”
The Republican in the race, Janet Burman, said she’s “disappointed” in the mailer.
In an interview with NewsChannel 9, Burman said: “Other than Walsh referring to me and our other opponent as disingenuous, this race has been avoiding all the vitriol and polarization of rhetoric that takes place at the national level. I don’t like the outside of the mailer, but part of the message inside I agree with.”
Walsh pushes back on the notion that the rise in violent crime is attributable to the policies of his administration or his police chief.
Walsh said: “Violent crime didn’t start during this administration. Every other issue we’re dealing with didn’t start during this administration. So I think everyone needs to take a hard look at Councilor Bey’s record the last ten years and make a determination whether or not he’s been part of the solution.”
Bey responded: “The Council does not initiate contracts. The Council does not initiate spending. But what’s most important, the Council does not control the police or the fire department or DPW or any of that.”
“Overall, I think us candidates have been able to maintain a level of respect and professionalism,” said Walsh. “I don’t think that mailer met that mark.”
The three candidates are on the ballot for early voting, which runs through Sunday. Election Day is next Tuesday.