Socialist India Walton scores upset victory in Buffalo mayoral primary

India Walton scored a stunning upset in the Democratic mayoral primary in Buffalo, N.Y., putting her on track to become the city's first female executive and the country's most high-profile socialist mayor in decades.

Walton, a nurse and community activist, bested incumbent Mayor Byron Brown (D) and Le'Candice Durham, a longshot candidate in the race. 

The Associated Press called the race for Walton on Wednesday morning.

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Walton’s primary victory makes her the favorite to win the general election later this year, given the Democratic tilt of Buffalo. A Republican has not led the city since the Kennedy administration. 

She would be the only socialist mayor in a major city. Buffalo would also be the largest city to have a socialist mayor since Milwaukee six decades ago.

Walton said Wednesday morning she was not surprised by her victory, saying her campaign had followed a playbook it believed would guide her to victory.

"We set out about a year ago to do exactly what we did. We knew that this race was going to require help from outside of our local geographic area; we knew that we needed to garner national attention to challenge a 16-year, heavily entrenched incumbent, and the people spoke," she said on CNN.

Walton has advocated for a slew of progressive policies, including instituting rent control, barring police from responding to mental health calls and declaring Buffalo a "sanctuary city."

"My plan is to put our resources into community, into neighborhoods, and govern in a deeply democratic way, that the people who are governed have a say over the decisionmaking process and how resources are deployed in our community," she said Wednesday.

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"We are looking forward to doing things differently, and I am so excited that we are ushering a new era of progressive leadership in Buffalo, N.Y.," she added.

Walton's victory over Brown, who had sought a fifth term, came after the incumbent largely shirked debates in the primary race.

The win also marks a major success for New York progressives, who appear to be on their back foot as centrist Eric Adams leads the New York City mayoral primary.