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Meet India Walton, the political newcomer who could become Buffalo’s first female mayor

Tuesday’s mayoral primary ended with a stunning upset for the city’s four-term Democratic mayor.

Meet India Walton, the political newcomer who could become Buffalo’s first female mayor
[Photo: Courtesy Friends of India Walton]
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In Buffalo, Tuesday’s mayoral primary ended with a stunning upset for the city’s four-term Democratic mayor Byron Brown, who lost the race to a political newcomer running her first campaign.

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Brown was beaten by a progressive challenger backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party, a group often referred to as the “Tea Party of the Left”—thus signaling shifting winds in the political landscape of New York’s second-biggest city. If elected in November, new nominee India Walton would become the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Frank Zeidler reigned in Milwaukee.

Here’s what to know:

What are the odds that Walton becomes mayor?

According to election analysts, highly likely—Buffalo is a deep blue city, with all nine seats on its municipal council held by Democratic party members. The last time it was led by a Republican was five mayors ago, in 1965.

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However, Brown has yet to concede the primary, telling the media late Tuesday that “we’re going to make sure every single vote is counted.”

So, who is Walton?

India Walton is a public school nurse and community organizer, born and raised in Buffalo. She had her first child at age 14, and after leaving high school to give birth to twins, earned a G.E.D. and a nursing degree from SUNY Erie. She was an active demonstrator in last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, and has spoken out about issues including police reform, housing, and infrastructure.

What does her victory mean?

Walton’s defeat of Brown—a longtime champion of the Democratic establishment and close ally of New York’s somewhat centrist governor Andrew Cuomo—signals burgeoning support for the progressive ultra-left-wing, a shift that Brown likely underestimated as he ran what some called a lackluster Rose Garden campaign, refusing to even debate Walton.

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And with a more critical eye on equality in recent years, Brown’s tenure is also under the microscope. While Buffalo underwent a sort of renaissance during his time—with key projects including the Buffalo Sabres’ flagship hockey rink and a nearly billion-dollar Tesla solar plant—some argue that not everybody has benefited.

“The mayor’s been in office for 16 years, and we have not seen significant improvements in many of our communities, especially those that are primarily occupied by Black people and brown people and poor people,” Walton said in an interview this month.

If elected, she would break ground not just as a socialist mayor, but also Buffalo’s first female mayor.

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That seems like a big deal

But it’s not set in stone yet, as Wikipedia editors are quick to point out. They’re currently debating whether to delete or postpone Walton’s page in the web encyclopedia, on the grounds that her only notability as of now is running for political office, not yet winning it or starting the job. “Wikipedia cannot act as if it’s already a foregone conclusion,” an editor wrote.

However, Walton seems to disagree: According to The Buffalo News, she’s already informed her mother that she’s Buffalo’s newest mayor.