“When we organize, we win,” India Walton, Buffalo's newest Democratic mayoral candidate said after clutching the victory in the Democratic primary on Tuesday (June 22). “I care about people, and I believe the resources should go to working-class people and families,” the 38-year-old Democratic socialist added.
Walton seized the primary win through an all-volunteer campaign staff, beating out four-term incumbent Byron Brown who was running for a fifth term in office. Brown became the city’s first Black mayor in 2006. Without having held political office prior to winning the primary, Walton was seen as the underdog in the race.
“I don’t think reality has completely sunk in yet,” Walton told The New York Times. She’s already received congratulatory phone calls from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and her win is being compared to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who beat out 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the 2018 midterm.
“I’m India from down the way, little poor Black girl who, statistically speaking, shouldn’t have amounted to much, yet here I am,” Walton added. “This is proof that Black women and women belong everywhere in positions of power and positions of leadership, and I’m just super-excited.”
If Walton goes on to win the mayoral election in November, she’ll join the growing list of Black women mayors in the US.
Walton’s victory and path to the mayor’s office also means a socialist would be running Buffalo for the first time. Though Walton’s campaign was backed by the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America, Walton prefers not to get tangled in absolutes of political labels, and instead describes her ideology as “putting people first.”
Buffalo is a Democratic-leaning city with a population of about 250,000 people, 37% of whom are Black. Walton has plans for implementing affordable housing plans, and vowed to declare Buffalo a sanctuary city for people who are undocumented. Among her priorities is also police reform, leaning in favor of an independent civilian board, and changing the way mental health calls are responded to.
“Our police budget is as high as it’s ever been, and crime is also up, so something is not working,” Walton said.