How successful can Ben Walsh be as an independent mayor of Syracuse?

Dec 4, 2017

In January, Syracuse Mayor-elect Ben Walsh will become the first mayor of Syracuse not affiliated with any political party. When it comes to governing, that lack of a party label shouldn’t make it more difficult for Walsh to navigate City Hall.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney says if anything, Walsh would have missed party support during the election process, when the party faithful collect signatures on ballots and knock on doors for their candidate. But that doesn’t matter now.

“But now that he’s elected, there’s no downside,” said Mahoney.

Walsh comes into office at a time when the emotions of partisan politics run high. In Onondaga County, that means he’ll work with a Syracuse Common Council packed with Democrats, and a county government ruled by Republicans. 

Walsh says one of the pluses of being an independent mayor, is his decisions are free from the pressures of a political party and its interests.

“We may not all be members of the same party, but we are working together. And I think that’s better than being bound by some artificial label, said Walsh.

On the state side, there’s a democratic governor and a state legislature split between Republicans and Democrats. Walsh believes it’s better for everyone to work together as individuals as opposed to politicians  bound by an artificial label.

“If the governor can have a strong relationship a Republican county executive, then I’m confident that the governor can have a strong relationship with an independent mayor."

Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat, says he’s willing to work with Walsh, noting that as a member of HUD in the 1990’s, he worked with Walsh’s father, who was at that time a Republican member of Congress representing central New York. Cuomo says he believes voters simply want politicians to put the partisan bickering aside.

“Get things done, make my life better, help me. Stop talking. Do something,” said Cuomo. “That’s the attitude I bring to government. That’s how I worked with his father, that’s how I work with the county executive, and that’s how I’ll work with the incoming mayor.”

Both Cuomo and Mahoney have famously had squabbles with members of their own party, so a lack of a party label doesn’t eliminate all political machinations. But Mahoney says this is just one less roadblock to governing.

“You don’t have any obligations to any political party,” Mahoney said. “Your obligations are to the people who live in Syracuse, New York. And I think that people are really ready for somebody to put the politics aside around here.”