First-time socialist candidate set to become Buffalo's next mayor

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A democratic socialist candidate running her first political campaign is expected to become the next mayor of Buffalo, New York, after a stunning primary upset over the city's longest-serving mayor. India Walton, 38, would be Buffalo's first female mayor and the first socialist mayor of a major American city in six decades.

India Walton / Credit: WIVB
India Walton / Credit: WIVB

The Associated Press on Wednesday morning called the Democratic primary for Walton, a nurse and activist who was supported by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party. Walton defeated Byron Brown, the incumbent who has led the city since 2006.

Brown, who was running for a fifth term, did not concede, citing the absentee ballots that had yet to be counted. But the Associated Press said the number of outstanding ballots wouldn't be enough to close the gap of Walton's 7-point lead. Walton is virtually guaranteed to be elected in the November general election, since there is no Republican challenger.

Walton declared victory on Tuesday night and a Buffalo News reporter captured her calling her mother to break the news: "Mommy, I won! Mommy, I'm the mayor of Buffalo! Well, not 'til January, but yeah!"

Video @TheBuffaloNews India Walton leaves Poize Nightclub on Niagara Street to call her mom telling her she won mayoral democratic primary in Buffalo

— Robert Kirkham (@RobertKirkhamBN) June 23, 2021

She said in a victory speech that her success was "the work of a well-meaning group of rebels and revolutionaries that had a bold vision on what we want the future of our city to look like." Her supporters chanted: "Madam Mayor! Madam Mayor!"

Walton's career path is not a typical politician's. She became pregnant with her first child at 14 and dropped out of high school, then worked at McDonald's before getting her GED. She served as a public schools nurse and a representative for the 1199 SEIU health care union, and was a leader in the city's Black Lives Matter and racial justice protests last year.

"My story is remarkable, but not uncommon," Walton told CBS Buffalo affiliate WIVB Wednesday morning. "And I just want to be the example for people like me that you can do whatever you set your mind to."

She ran on a progressive platform that included removing police from most mental health emergency calls, reallocating some police funding to other city services, creating the city's first comprehensive climate action plan and declaring Buffalo a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.

Walton would be the first self-identified socialist to become a big city mayor since Frank Zeidler, a socialist who was mayor of Milwaukee from 1948 to 1960.

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