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India Walton set to become Buffalo’s first socialist mayor

In an astonishing upheaval on Tuesday night, political newcomer India Walton appeared poised to eliminate longtime incumbent Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for mayor in Buffalo. Backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party, Walton is set to defeat the mayor of Buffalo for four terms and a close ally of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

With all the ridings counted, Walton declared victory while holding a 1,507 votes lead, which equates to a 7 percentage point margin in a low turnout primary race where only about 21,000 votes were cast. Brown did not concede in brief remarks during his election night rally. His campaign relies on exceptional mail-in ballots to close the gap. Only 1,536 postal ballots were returned on Tuesday evening, according to to WIVB-TV in Buffalo, but more may arrive in the coming days.

If Walton’s lead holds, and if Brown doesn’t mount an independent campaign this fall, Walton has a clear path to becoming Buffalo’s first female mayor, as well as the first socialist – and the first socialist mayor of a major city. in half a century. There is no Republican candidate in the fall election, and President Joe Biden won nearly 80 percent of Buffalo’s vote in last year’s presidential election.

Mom, I’m the mayor of Buffalo well, not before january, but yeah! Walton said during a phone call to his mother Tuesday night, which was caught on video by The Buffalo News.

Like many cities, Buffalo was rocked by racial justice protests last year following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It gained national attention when two Buffalo police officers hit 75-year-old peace activist Martin Gugino on the ground during a demonstration in front of Buffalo City Hall. Gugino spent a month in the hospital. After officers were charged with assault, 57 members of the city’s special response team resigned of unity in protest. The charges against the officers were later fall.

Walton has placed police accountability at the center of his campaign; it said on call that she is showing up because Brown “is doing nothing to improve the quality of life of the poor and dark people and to hold the police to account.”

Brown described the officers’ actions in the Gugino case as “horrible”And implemented some policy changes last year – although they were criticized by local police reform advocates as insufficient. Some activists disturbed his State of the City address last year about the lack of action against police brutality.

Walton, born primarily on the Black East Side of Buffalo, became a full-time working mother at the age of 14 after dropping out of high school. She worked as a nurse in Buffalo public schools and got involved with the local SEIU union before turning to community organizing work, founding an affordable housing group that rehabilitated vacant housing for residents. low income.

She ran on a left wing program in one of the most segregated cities in the country, which also claims the third worst child poverty rate. Walton promised a tenants bill of rights that includes rent control, as well as a significant investment in social services and police distancing from homeless and mental health appeals. She avoided the outright rhetoric “Defund the police”, story a local news station, it planned to relieve the police “of the responsibility of fixing the problems that our municipal government should have faced”.

Brown, the first black mayor of Buffalo, was running for a record fifth term and was widely favorite to win. Firmly anchored in the political machine of the city, he had the support other local Democratic politicians, powerful business interests, The Buffalo News and dozens of unions. Walton raised a lot less money than Brown, but she had the approval of the powerful Buffalo Teachers Union and the Challenger, a newspaper aimed at Buffalo’s black community.

Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.


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