Socialist mayoral candidate India Walton won Buffalo’s Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday night in a historic upset over incumbent Democratic Mayor Byron Brown. Brown is a major figure among New York’s establishment Democrats.
Walton is expected to triumph in the heavily Democratic town in the general election come November. If she wins, she will be the first socialist mayor of a large U.S. city in over 60 years, the last being Milwaukee’s Frank Zeidler.
Walton, a registered nurse, had the backing of many major labor and progressive groups. In fact, her campaign to challenge Brown, whose four terms have been marked with disappointment for progressives, was heavily supported by the New York-based Working Families Party, who abandoned their long-running support of Brown in favor of Walton, according to The New Republic.
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“We set out to not only change Buffalo, but to change the way progressive politics are viewed in upstate New York,” Walton said in her victory speech on Tuesday night. She thanked her supporters, emphasizing the significance of her win, which faced long odds, and calling it a symbolic win for socialism and progressivism in the face of Democratic establishment politics.
“When we organize, we win,” she exclaimed, to much applause.
Throughout her campaign, Walton was critical of the incumbent mayor for his response to the coronavirus and led protests for the Movement for Black Lives against Buffalo’s acutely violent police force.
She has proposed cutting millions from the Buffalo Police Department’s budget and redistributing that money toward youth outreach and affordable housing programs, among other things. Walton’s priorities would also include making Buffalo a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants and ending the role of police in mental health related emergency calls, she has said.
“The entire intent of this campaign is to draw down power and resources to the ground level and into the hands of the people,” she said in an interview after her win. “We’re perfectly fine with socialism for the rich. We will bail out Wall Street banks and give a billion dollars in tax incentives to one of the richest people in the world to build empty Tesla factories in South Buffalo and when it comes to providing the resources that working families need to thrive, socialism becomes scary at that point.”
In her victory speech, Walton emphasized that the victory was bigger than just her campaign.
“From the very start, I said this is not about making India Walton mayor of Buffalo. This is about building the infrastructure to challenge every damn city,” she said. “All we are doing in this moment is claiming what’s rightfully ours. We are the workers. We do the work. And we deserve a government that works with and for us.”
“This victory is ours,” Walton continued. “It is the first of many. If you are in an elected office right now, you are being put on notice. We are coming.”
Walton’s victory gained the praise of progressive Democrats in Congress. New York Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman all celebrated her win on Twitter. “You have made us all so proud,” Jones tweeted on Wednesday.
.@Indiawaltonbflo became a mother at 14 years old. She earned her GED while pregnant w/ twins.
She graduated, became a registered nurse, & then a representative in her union, 1199SEIU. Then directed a Community Land Trust.
Tonight it seems Buffalo may be making her Mayor. 💙 https://t.co/SlKY0fXKF5
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 23, 2021
“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” Walton said in a statement. “For too long, we’ve seen our city work for politicians, for developers, for the police union, but not for ordinary working families. In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table.”