Two Syracuse lawmakers to face off in Democratic primary for mayor

Feb 22, 2021

Two Democrats on the Syracuse Common Council will face off in a primary in June to determine who gets on the Democratic ballot line in the November race for mayor.

The Onondaga County Democratic Party threw its support behind councilor Michael Greene last week.  Councilor Khalid Bey gathered reporters days later to announce he wants that decision in the hands of voters.

“I’m here today to announce my campaign for a Democratic primary to become the mayor of the city of Syracuse,” Bey said during a news conference in Syracuse Friday.

Greene, who’s been on council for three years now, says the party designation gives him organizational support, but beyond that, it doesn’t change much.

“It doesn’t really change anything from my end,” Greene said. “It’s still going to be me going out talking to as many people as I can, and talking about my ideas.”

Both Democrats are targeting incumbent Mayor Ben Walsh, an independent running for his second term. Both Greene and Bey bashed Walsh’s economic development initiative called the Syracuse Surge, saying it doesn’t go far enough to help impoverished residents.

Greene said the focus should be on investing in the city and its people.

“It’s about more transportation options for people, rezoning the city to have more affordable housing in the neighborhoods, having more code enforcement,” Greene said.

Bey offered a similar perspective.

“Beautiful buildings downtown doesn’t improve our employment record,” Bey said. “So we have to speak to interests of people. Government has to be a people first business. As far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been for a long time.”

Experience is also expected to be an issue in the campaign. Bey, who has served on the council for 10 years, says he has it.

“I have no doubt I am the more experienced, more dynamic candidate,” he said. “I believe I will be the greater opponent for the incumbent.”

Greene said his three years in city government is enough to take on the city’s top job.

“To be perfectly honest, I think three years is the perfect amount to understand the issues of government, but not be someone that’s been here so long you can’t envision change,” he said.

Candidates must gather 300 voter signatures in March to force the June 22 primary. Both Bey and Greene, as well as Walsh, are also looking for support from the Working Families Party, which makes its decision next month. Republican Janet Burman is also running for mayor.