BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Presumptive mayor-elect India Walton’s stunning upset of four-term incumbent Byron Brown in Tuesday’s Democratic primary left a major question reverberating though Western New York and beyond: Is Buffalo going to have a socialist mayor?
Walton did not hesitate Tuesday night when asked directly if she considers herself a socialist.
“Oh, absolutely!” Walton said outside Poize Restaurant and Lounge on Niagara Street, where her supporters gathered for her election-night party. “The entire intent of this campaign is to draw down power and resources to the ground level and into the hands of the people.”
Walton, 38, is on track to become the first female mayor in Buffalo history. According to The New York Times, she will also be the the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Milwaukee had one.
“When we think about socialism, you know, we’re perfectly fine with socialism for the rich,” Walton said. “We will bail out Wall Street and banks and give a billion dollars in tax incentives to one of the richest people in the world to build an empty Tesla factory in South Buffalo, and when it comes to providing the resources that working families need to thrive, socialism becomes scary at that point. So, I’m very proud to be a democratic socialist. I am proud to have the support of Buffalo DSA and national DSA (Democratic Socialists of America).
“I received a call from Congresswoman AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a national leader in the left-wing movement) this evening and I’m just excited to be a part of this movement that is ushering progressive politics into Buffalo. Being the third-poorest midsize city in this country, we should be considering how we begin to eradicate concentrated poverty and disadvantage, and democratic socialist leanings are a big step in getting us there.”
The mayoral result will not be official until November, but there are no other candidates on the ballot. Barring an ambitious write-in campaign or an unforeseen circumstance turning the primary in Brown’s favor, Walton will be mayor next year. (Brown did not concede Tuesday, holding out hope for absentee ballots, but the Associated Press called the race Wednesday morning.)
Support for Walton has poured in from around the country, especially among those who share her “democratic socialist leanings.” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about Walton’s victory to her 12.7 million followers, as did People for Bernie Sanders.
“There are a lot of Buffalo democrats that don’t necessarily feel well represented by the Democratic Party,” Walton said. “This is only the beginning. All along I have been saying that the infrastructure we are building is not about India becoming mayor, its about having an alternative to the party machine that has kept progressive politics out of Buffalo. And we are prepared to run down-ballot candidates and really represent working-class folks who are the majority of Buffalonians and take politics out of the hands of the powerful and wealthy and put it in the hands of the people.”
Walton beat Brown during early and Primary Day voting by about 1,500 votes, 11,132-9,625. Turnout for the election was “terrible,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Tuesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized Brown’s campaign strategy Wednesday while addressing voter turnout:
“Super low turnout,” Cuomo said. “Mayor Brown, who I know very well – and I have nothing but good things to say about Mayor Brown – but he decided basically, his campaign strategy as I understand it was basically to avoid engaging in a campaign, and then you had a very low turnout. We know that combination, we’ve seen that before. That doesn’t work. Avoiding the campaign, this isn’t really happening, doesn’t work. And then you wind up with a very low turnout and the only people who vote are the people who are organized by the opponent. We’ve seen that movie before.”
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.