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India Walton speaks at a rally in Buffalo, New York.

India Walton, who won the Democratic primary for mayor in Buffalo, New York in June, speaks at a rally. (Photo: Friends of India Walton)

Buffalo's Democratic Establishment Still Trying to Defeat Socialist India Walton

"If those in power cannot handle actual democracy they should never have had it," said one critic.

Julia Conley

India Walton, the democratic socialist candidate for mayor in Buffalo, New York who won the Democratic Party primary in June, took aim at four-term incumbent Mayor Byron Brown on Sunday over his attempts—alongside other members of the city's political establishment—to circumvent the will of the voters ahead of November's election.
Without calling the Democratic mayor out by name, Walton assured voters that if she had lost the primary, "I wouldn't be trying to change election laws and work with Republicans to override the will of Buffalonians."
The community organizer and healthcare worker's comments came amid Brown's write-in campaign, which has attracted the support of Republican real estate developer Carl Paladino and other conservatives. Brown filed a petition last week to change the filing deadline in order to run as an independent.
According to a Salon report published Monday, nearly a third of the signatures the mayor has collected in favor of establishing a "Buffalo Party" candidacy are from the right, including from Republicans from outside of Buffalo. The city's Republican Party is considering an official endorsement of Brown, who is a close ally of outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and who's denounced Walton as a "radical socialist."

"I can promise every person in Buffalo that if I lost the primary, I wouldn't be trying to change election laws and work with Republicans to override the will of Buffalonians."
—India Walton

On Friday, Walton said Brown's write-in campaign "is just another attempt by an establishment politician to move right to fight the left."
Meanwhile, should Brown's attempt to defeat Walton electorally fail, the city's legislative body is examining how it might wrest power from the progressive if she wins in November. Weeks after the primary, the nine-member, Democratic-led Buffalo Common Council voted to study how the mayoral position could be dissolved in the city and replaced with a city manager who would "carry out the will of the Council members."
The council has 90 days to study the proposal, which was put forward by council member Rasheed Wyatt—reportedly in response to Brown's governance and a policy disagreement between the two politicians over placing speed cameras in minority neighborhoods. 
Walton suggested on Twitter last month that the study, which is set to wrap up just two weeks before the election, is actually an attempt to keep her from running the city with an agenda unabashedly focused on improving the lives of working class and poor Buffalo residents.
"If those in power cannot handle actual democracy they should never have had it," tweeted progressive digital media company in response to Salon's report.
Walton, who was a teenage working mother before becoming a nurse and community leader, ran on establishing an unarmed public safety force "to address quality of life;" making Buffalo a sanctuary city; strengthening protections for renters; and expanding food access.
She told reporters after her primary win that she "absolutely" would call herself a socialist and that she aimed to "draw down power and resources to the ground level and to the hands of the people," reminding the local NBC affiliate that millions of Americans have benefited from "socialist" policies in the last 17 months.
"I am a Democrat socialist. The first word in that is Democrat," Walton told WGRZ. "My policies are socialist policies. Many things that we enjoyed during the pandemic like our economic stimulus, like SNAP benefits for families with children, like free healthcare."
Should she win in November, Walton would be the first self-identified socialist mayor of a major American city in 60 years. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont from 1981 until 1989, describing himself and governing as a democratic socialist.

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