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In a stunning upstate upset, Democratic-Socialist insurgent India Walton toppled four-term incumbent Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown — an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo — in Tuesday’s primary election.
Walton, a 38-year-old mother of four and staunch union supporter, was propelled to victory, in part, through strong backing by the leftist Working Families Party — and will likely become the first female mayor in Buffalo’s history.
“I became a mother at 14. The majority of my campaign’s leadership team is working mothers. People like us often get told we don’t belong in politics. But WFP [Working Families Party] believed in us and invested in us,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
A self-described socialist, Walton was backed by the Buffalo chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Her shocking victory is reminiscent of fellow Demcoratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent win over veteran pol and former Queens Democratic Party boss Joe Crowley in the 2018 primary.
Walton said she received a congratulatory call from AOC, who tweeted about her victory. An AOC spokesperson confirmed the congresswoman chatted with Walton about her smashing victory.
Walton’s win marks an ideological sea change for Buffalo.
James Griffin, who served as Buffalo’s mayor for 16 years in the 1980s and 1990s, was a moderate-to-conservative Democrat who received backing of the Conservative and Republican parties during his reign.
After the win, Walton issued a warning shot to other Democratic incumbents.
“If you are in elected office, right now you are being put on notice,” she said during her victory speech Tuesday night.
“I’m just excited to be a part of this movement that is ushering progressive politics into Buffalo,” Walton said.
She continued: “Being the third poorest mid-sized city in this country, we should be considering how we begin to eradicate concentrated poverty and disadvantage. And Democratic Socialist leanings are a big step in getting us there.”
Walton also said many of her volunteer supporters will be joining the WFP, which often clashes and backs candidates in Democratic primaries against more centrist incumbents.
Other Democrats — including Cuomo — claimed the race had more to do with Brown’s lackluster campaign than a yearning for socialism. Brown, a former state Democratic Party chairman, ran a Rose Garden strategy and sought to ignore his chief rival.
Brown was so confident of victory that he arrogantly refused to debate Walton, which Cuomo on Wednesday called a strategic blunder.
“His campaign strategy, as I understand it, was basically to avoid engaging in a campaign. And then you had a very low turnout,” said Cuomo, a three-term incumbent who is grappling with investigations over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and sexual harassment claims.
“Avoiding the campaign … it doesn’t work. We’ve seen that movie before,” he added.
In the city, other left-leaning candidate notched a foothold in the City Council.
DSA-backed candidates picked up at least two seats in the Council — with AOC pal Tiffany Caban winning about half the vote on their shared turf in Astoria.
Alexa Aviles also captured more than 40 percent of first ballot votes in Brooklyn’s 38th Council district covering Sunset Park and Red Hook.
Caban nearly pulled off an upset in the Democratic primary election for Queens District Attorney in 2019, losing in a squeaker to Melinda Katz after a recount.
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