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India Walton won the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo Tuesday night.

India Walton, a former nurse and community activist, was the apparent victor in Buffalo's Democratic mayoral primary, beating four-term Mayor Byron Brown. (Photo: Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

'We Are the Workers': Socialist India Walton Declares Victory in Buffalo Mayoral Race

"We do the work," the Democrat said after her primary win. "And we deserve a government that works with and for us."

Julia Conley

New York's second-largest city is poised next year to have its first socialist mayor after community activist and healthcare worker India Walton upset Byron Brown, the establishment Democratic leader who has run Buffalo for four terms. 

Walton did not hesitate to embrace the label of socialist in the early morning hours Wednesday as election results showed her with 52% of the vote compared to Brown's 45%, with 92% of precincts reporting. 

"Oh, absolutely," Walton said quickly when a reporter asked if she would call herself a socialist. "The entire intent of this campaign is to draw down power and resources to the ground level and to the hands of the people."

The former nurse, who had never run for public office before, added that the political establishment has embraced socialism for the wealthy for decades.

"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 families need to thrive socialism becomes scary at that point."
—India Walton

"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 families need to thrive socialism becomes scary at that point," Walton said.

Walton's campaign platform included plans to establish an unarmed public safety workforce "to address quality of life and social calls to 911" while directing police officers not to respond to mental health crises; establishing Buffalo as a sanctuary city; converting all city vehicles to electric cars within four years; and strengthening protections for tenants.

Brown—a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state party's preferred candidate—refused to debate Walton during the campaign and had not conceded defeat as of Wednesday morning. 

Walton's apparent victory was applauded by progressive New York Democrats including Reps. Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman.

In a tweet, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) highlighted Walton's personal background as a teenage working mother and labor leader.

City & State New York political reporter Zach Williams called Walton's win "a huge victory for the political left."

Although democratic socialists and progressive lawmakers support broadly popular policy proposals including aggressive climate action, Medicare for All, and other initiatives which would place the needs of working people over the desires of corporations and the wealthy, corporate Democrats and news personalities have persisted in claiming the party's left wing only have a chance of gaining a foothold in the country's largest coastal cities. 

Walton suggested her victory in Buffalo demonstrates progressives' chances of winning all over the country.

"This victory is ours," said Walton to her supporters. "It is the first of many. If you are in an elected office right now, you are being put on notice. We are coming."

"We set out to not only change Buffalo, but to change the way progressive politics are viewed in upstate New York," she added.

"This victory is ours. It is the first of many. If you are in an elected office right now, you are being put on notice. We are coming."
—India Walton

Walton is expected to win the general election in November in the heavily Democratic city, a victory that would make Buffalo the first major American city to have a socialist mayor since 1960, when Milwaukee's Mayor Frank Zeidler stepped down. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former presidential candidate and the nation's most well-known democratic socialist, served eight years as the two-term mayor of Burlington, the state's largest city, from 1981 to 1989.

According to Census data from 2007, Buffalo is the third-poorest U.S. city with a population over 250,000, with 28.7% percent of people living at or below the poverty line. 

"All that we are doing in this moment is claiming what is rightfully ours," Walton declared during her victory speech. "We are the workers. We do the work. And we deserve a government that works with and for us."


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