Socialist Scores Upset Win in Buffalo Mayoral Primary

4-term Democratic incumbent Byron Brown refused to debate India Walton
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2021 3:40 AM CDT
Socialist Defeats 4-Term Mayor in Buffalo Primary
Democratic Buffalo mayoral primary candidate India Walton reacts while watching voting returns for the race against Byron Brown, Tuesday, June 22, 2021 in Buffalo, NY.   (Robert Kirkham/The Buffalo News via AP)

India Walton is on course to become the first socialist mayor of a big US city in decades after defeating Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary. Walton—a 38-year-old nurse and community organizer who has never held elected office—defeated the 62-year-old four-term incumbent in what CNN describes as a major blow to the state's Democratic establishment. Brown is a former chairman of the New York Democratic primary. The New York Times reports that supporters and critics alike say Walton was helped by low Democratic turnout and Brown's failure to engage with his opponent. He spent little time campaigning and refused to debate Walton. "His campaign strategy, as I understand it, was to avoid engaging in a campaign," Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Brown ally, said Wednesday. "We’ve seen that movie before."

Brown might now launch a write-in campaign, but Walton is widely expected to win the November election in the heavily Democratic city, which would make her the first socialist big-city mayor since Frank P. Zeidler left office in Milwaukee in 1960, the Times reports. Walton would also be the city's first female mayor. She tells the Buffalo News that she entered the race with the intention of winning, but victory still feels "surreal." Walton—a mother of four who was just 14 when she had her first child—says she wants "every person in Buffalo to have an opportunity to live a decent life." What being a socialist means, she says, "is that I'm putting people first. People over profits. I'm representing the working class, the poor, the forgotten." (More Buffalo stories.)

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