Socialist candidate defeats four-term incumbent mayor of Buffalo, NY in Dem primary
In a primary election victory eerily reminiscent of the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-identified socialist candidate is likely to be elected mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. after a low-turnout Democrat primary victory over an entrenched incumbent who failed to take the far-left challenger seriously. Because a Republican victory in the general election is almost unthinkable in deep blue Buffalo, America is likely to have its first big-city socialist mayor in more than 60 years.
Chloe Xiang of Yahoo News reports:
India Walton, a nurse and progressive activist, upset four-term incumbent Byron Brown in Tuesday's Democratic primary in Buffalo, N.Y., in a bid to become the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960.
Walton, who would also become the first female mayor elected in Buffalo, must still win in the November general election — though the last time the city elected a Republican to lead it was during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. There is currently no Republican seeking the office.
While absentee votes have not yet been counted, the Associated Press declared Walton the winner in the race against Brown. She currently holds a lead of 7 percentage points, with 52 percent of the vote to Brown's 45. Brown has so far refused to concede defeat, however, until "each and every vote is counted."
India Waton salutes her victory (YouTube screen grab, cropped).
As with AOC's defeat of ten-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in 2018, the long-serving incumbent was evidently blind to the seriousness of the challenge in a low-turnout primary, where mobilizing lefty voters can bring victory.
Ms. Walton ran an unabashedly progressive campaign in a Democratic city of about 250,000 people — about 37 percent of them Black — that had elected mostly white men as mayors for nearly two centuries. (Mr. Brown became the city's first Black mayor in 2006.)
She said she supported implementing rent control protections. She pledged to declare Buffalo a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants [sic]. And she vowed to reform the city's Police Department, arguing in favor of an independent civilian oversight board and changing the way police officers respond to mental health calls.
"Our police budget is as high as it's ever been, and crime is also up, so something is not working," she said.
There were a number of factors that both Ms. Walton's supporters and critics agree helped catapult her to victory: Turnout among Democratic voters in Buffalo was very low, about 20 percent, and Ms. Walton raised money and organized effectively to build a multiracial coalition, including Black voters that would have typically voted for Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown's actions suggested that he did not take Ms. Walton's challenge seriously. He refused to debate her — "Maybe he believed pretending I didn't exist was going to make the race go away," Ms. Walton said — and he did not campaign vigorously, failing to fund-raise as aggressively as he had in previous primaries or spend on ad buys until late in the race.
"I think it was almost a perfect storm that was working against the mayor in this case, but it was brought about by his nonchalance in this race," said Len Lenihan, the former Erie County Democratic chairman.
Walton now plans to work to elect a city council (called the Common Council in Buffalo) that will support her leftist objectives, according to the New York Daily News:
Like Adams, Walton suggested her brand of politics is the way of the future and signaled she intends to help elect socialist candidates for Buffalo's Common Council.
"This campaign is only the beginning. This doesn't stop with me. 'We're coming for all the damn seats," she said.
The incumbent, Mayor Brown, had forged close relations with the state's Democrat powers-that-be and brought in money. According to the NYT:
Under Mr. Brown, Buffalo, in western New York, has undergone a resurgence in recent years with the construction of major projects in the downtown area. But the city's poverty rate is more than twice the national average, and its unemployment rate, while improving, has not fully recovered to prepandemic levels.
Indeed, there was a sense among some residents who voted for Ms. Walton that low-income communities were not reaping the benefits of downtown development.
"Buffalo is super-stagnant," said Anthony Henry, 29, a musician and student. "We try to talk like there's a lot of progress going on, with recent developments along the waterfront, but nothing has moved."
As a mayor, Walton won't be able to seize the means of production, so maybe the socialist label just means more left-wing policies, including higher taxes, more regulation, and more investigation of and maybe cuts to the police.
I am so old that I remember when Buffalo was a thriving manufacturing city of almost 600,000 residents, a city with entertainment options so abundant that residents of Toronto would drive over the border to have some fun. This was back when the Ontarian city was mocked by Montrealers as "Toronto the good," for its rather straight-laced approach to nightlife.
Buffalo's decline and fall have been painful to watch. Alas, I fear that its voters have condemned it to fall farther.
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