After Socialist Stunner, Buffalo Mayor Assessing Write-In Odds

India Walton defeated incumbent Byron Brown in Democratic primary
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2021 10:05 AM CDT
Buffalo Socialist's Upset Win: Hasn't 'Completely Sunk In Yet'
India Walton is poised to become Buffalo's next mayor after her upset victory.   (Robert Kirkham/The Buffalo News via AP)

Pressure is building on Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to mount a write-in campaign in November after his stunning upset loss to democratic socialist India Walton in the city's Democratic primary. The Buffalo News has two stories to that effect—one saying that prominent business leaders are pushing Brown to take the unprecedented step and another saying that he is seriously considering it. Meanwhile, political post-mortems continue to suss out how Walton managed to achieve her upset. Coverage:

  • The win: Brown, a four-term incumbent, was the heavy favorite in the race against Walton, a 38-year-old nurse and community activist who has never held political office. Because Buffalo is heavily Democratic, the winner of the party's primary is generally a shoo-in in November, per the New York Times. If Brown decides to mount a write-in campaign, it would be an expensive, uphill climb for him.

  • Broad strokes: Buffalo has seen a decent economic resurgence thanks to increased development under Brown, notes Politico. But the general feeling in minority communities is that they've been left out of the economic rise. "There has been a lot of frustration with the lack of progress under the Brown administration,” says John Washington of the Working Families Party, which backed Walton. "Last year, in particular, it reached a height with the George Floyd protests." (This incident involving Buffalo police drew national attention.) The win is all the more remarkable because the city has a long track record of electing Democrats considered moderate or conservative.
  • Big factor: A common denominator in the how-Walton-won coverage is that Brown, who also is Black, decided to largely ignore her during the campaign and declined to debate her. "His campaign strategy as I understand it was basically to avoid engaging in a campaign, and then you had a very low turnout," says Gov. Andrew Cuomo, per Buffalo station WIVB. "We know that combination, we’ve seen that before."
  • Walton: But Politico notes that Walton herself proved to be an engaging candidate. "I'm India from down the way, little poor Black girl who, statistically speaking, shouldn’t have amounted to much, yet here I am," she tells the Times. "This is proof that Black women and women belong everywhere in positions of power and positions of leadership, and I’m just super-excited." Walton became a mother at 14, an experience that helped inform her later activism. “I don’t think reality has completely sunk in yet,” she says of her victory.
  • Walton, II: In the campaign, Walton backed policies such as rent-control protections, police reform, and the idea of Buffalo becoming a sanctuary city for immigrants. "Oh absolutely," she responded when asked if she considered herself a socialist. "When we think about socialism, you know, we're perfectly fine with socialism for the rich."
  • The movement: Walton is on track to become the first socialist mayor of a major American city in decades, and ABC News puts her primary victory in context with the growing number of candidates openly identifying with the democratic socialist label.
(More Buffalo stories.)

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