When Ben Carlisle came to the Queen City in 2003, he didn’t plan on staying very long.
In fact, the then 22-year-old undergrad relocated solely to finish his bachelors degree and attend the UB School of Law. Twenty-two years later, Carlisle is a write-in candidate in the most competitive mayoral election the city has seen in nearly two decades.
“I made that decision [to consider running for mayor] right after the June primary and within a month I decided to run,” Carlisle said in an interview with The Spectrum. “I’ve never done anything like this in my life — it was very much a spur-of-the-moment decision.”
Although he always thought about running for political office, Carlisle says he never envisioned himself running for the mayor of Buffalo. For him, the decision was an unlikely plan brought about by a desire to give Buffalonians “more than two options.”
“I am running for mayor of Buffalo because I firmly believe voters should not have to choose between socialism and the status quo,” Carlisle wrote in a campaign flyer. “Buffalo desperately needs a change in leadership. And only Byron Brown could make socialism seem like a rational alternative to years of corruption and incompetence. I refuse to accept the false choice of four more years of Byron Brown or a four year experiment of socialism and defunding the police.”
Carlisle says he saw Walton’s upset defeat of Brown in the Democratic primary as an “excellent opportunity” to enter the race. He has since resigned his job as a lawyer to fully focus on his campaign.
Carlisle’s purpose for entering the race echoes that of fellow write-in candidate Jaz Miles, a former Assembly candidate.
“To restore the republic, we are getting so far away from what our country is meant to be and is really destroying our individuality and taking away our rights,” Miles told The Spectrum. “So when the race happened earlier this year and India Walton was able to defeat Byron Brown in the primary, I thought it’d be an excellent opportunity for an everyday person, someone of we the people, to get involved in politics, which is the way it's supposed to be to begin with.”
Carlisle calls party politics “rigid” and says they often compromise the interests of the people. Well before launching his mayoral bid, Carlisle began paving his own way and in the process, learned the importance of hard work.
“We didn’t have a ton of money as a kid, we moved around a bunch,” Carlisle said. “My parents were in the ministry and my dad was always a principal at small little Christian schools all over the country. My mom was always a teacher in those schools.”
As a nine-year-old, Carlisle delivered newspapers at 5:30 a.m. every morning. As a 14-year-old, he picked watermelons and cantaloupes for less than $5/hour in the blistering summer heat.
“I was never shy to just go out there and find a new solution and work hard in order to better my situation,” Carlisle said.
Soon, these new solutions translated into a full-fledged campaign. But Carlisle says he will never forget why his pin eventually landed on Buffalo.
“I think being a UB grad is when I first fell in love with Buffalo,” he said. “As my attachment to Buffalo grew stronger and stronger, it was always initially through my connection to UB which is what brought me here, so it has a very fond place in my heart.”
Carlisle describes his time at UB as a” typical”college experience characterized by city commutes and juggling what little time he had to attend class, do homework and participate in Mock Trial, when he had a free moment. Carlisle says his instructors, like Judge Thomas Franczyk, showed him the connection between the classroom and the city, which became a staple of his education.
Although the majority of UB students are unable to participate in the mayoral election because they aren’t registered to vote in the City of Buffalo, Carlisle says the race will undoubtedly impact campus life.
“They [students] have to know that it affects them,” he said.
Vaccine and mask mandates is one area that may change under a new administration. Incumbent Mayor Byron Brown has not implemented a vaccine passport system, while Democratic nominee India Walton has embraced the idea. Carlisle recently stood in solidarity with Moog workers as they walked out in protest of COVID-19 mandates.
“I don’t think y’all as students at UB should be forced to take an experimental vaccine as a condition of obtaining an education,” he said. Roughly 99% of students are currently fully vaccinated.
Students will also be impacted by where the next Bills stadium will be built. After witnessing the success of UB’s football and basketball teams in recent years, Carlisle believes a downtown stadium would attract more students and give a vibrant experience in the city. The Bills’ lease on Highmark Stadium is set to expire in July 2023.
“The better Buffalo does, I think, the better UB does,” Carlisle said.
Jack Porcari is the senior news and features editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Jack Porcari is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. He is a political science major with a minor in journalism. Aside from writing and editing, he enjoys playing piano, flow arts, reptiles and activism.