Buffalo’s mayoral race appears to have swung toward the write-in incumbent, but the count will take time.

Byron Brown, a Democrat and four-term mayor, lost to India Walton, a democratic socialist, in a June primary. There are far more write-in votes than votes for her, but determining which belong to Mr. Brown could take weeks.,

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BUFFALO, N.Y. –Mayor Byron W. Brown of Buffalo, an incumbent four-term Democrat, declared victory on Tuesday night in his write-in campaign to defeat his own party’s official nominee, India Walton. But Ms. Walton, a democratic socialist, refused to concede.

The political oddity of a potent write-in campaign and a battle pitting moderates versus progressives inside the Democratic Party turned this city’s usually lackluster mayoral race into one of the most closely watched contests in the nation. A win for Mr. Brown — the city’s first Black mayor and a lifelong Democratic centrist — would be a stinging rebuke for the progressive wing of his party, which had celebrated Ms. Walton’s unlikely primary victory in June.

The results reported early on Wednesday by the Erie County Board of Elections underscored the Democrats’ ideological schism. With all precincts reporting, just over 41 percent of votes were for Ms. Walton and 58.3 percent were marked for “write-in,” or 23,986 to 34,273.

There is at least one other write-in candidate who has actively campaigned: Benjamin Carlisle, a former Democrat. Ballots marked “write-in” will have to be checked individually to see which candidate — Mr. Brown, Mr. Carlisle, or others — is indicated. And absentee ballots will not be tallied until mid-November.

Ms. Walton, who had earned the endorsements of some of the nation’s best-known progressives, said on Tuesday night that “every vote needs to be counted” and railed against the Brown campaign, which did not reject support from Republicans, a small cohort in this heavily Democratic city.

“Right now it’s ‘Walton’ against ‘Write In,’ whoever that is,” she said. “Who Write-In is remains to be seen.”

Still, the results boosted the hopes and mood of Mr. Brown, who lost to Ms. Walton in a Democratic primary in June, after running a lackluster campaign.

“They said it was impossible to win as a write-in, but you can never count a Buffalonian out,” said Mr. Brown to a raucous crowd at a downtown event on Tuesday night, adding he would find a way to thank all his voters “over the next four years.”

“This hasn’t been easy,” he said. “But it’s been worth it.”

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