Community members say Ben Walsh’s administration must work with Latinx groups on and around the Hill

February 14, 2018 by Jose Perez

On the night of Nov. 7, 2017, a Democratic Latina candidate trailed just 2 percentage points behind an independent in the Syracuse mayoral race.

In the months prior to election night, Ben Walsh was behind Juanita Perez Williams by about 7 percentage points in most polls, but he made history that night, defeating Perez Williams in the general election to become the city’s second mayor unaffiliated with a major political party.

Perez Williams’ win would have made her the first woman of color to lead Syracuse, a city that in 2015, had the highest concentration of black and Hispanic people in poverty among the country’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas. For some members of Syracuse’s Latinx community, the opportunity to elect a public officer who could echo their voices has not yet been achieved. And so several Latinx leaders in central New York have a simple message for Walsh, a month after his inauguration: Listen to the voices that want to be heard.

Jose Perez, a lawyer with offices in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, said he was surprised on election night when the polls ended up being “wrong.” To him, Perez Williams’ loss reflected the city’s desire for change.

“It’s just a matter of people looking for a different type of person. People are just fed up with the two parties,” he said.

Perez came to the United States from Venezuela in 2002 and has practiced law independently in Syracuse since 2012 as one of the area’s Latino law professionals. Among other issues, he is involved with immigration litigation.

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