India Walton unofficially wins Democratic primary for Mayor of Buffalo

In what is being described as a monumental upset in city politics  India Walton defeats  4 term incumbent Mayor Byron Brown.

Walton who is a nurse, mother of three, and last worked as the executive director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, announced her candidacy in December 2020. Her campaign website lists public health, neighborhood stabilization and fiscal responsibility as top priorities.

Walton was up against Le’Candice Durham and the incumbent Byron Brown who was seeking reelection for a fifth term.

Brown has not officially conceded, saying the race is, "too close to call" and that he's waiting for every vote to be counted.

Walton's win will make her the first female mayor in the history of Buffalo.

There are no Republican candidates for mayor of Buffalo

Brown Campaign was caught totally off guard. They spend very little of their campaign funds, ran almost no TV ads and recruited very little help for the campaign, thinking that India Walton had zero chance of beating the four term mayor.

India B. Walton, the community activist barely known to many Buffalo voters just months ago, shocked four-term incumbent Byron W. Brown in Tuesday's Democratic primary for mayor in what may rank as the most historic upset in the city's political history.

Brown has refused to concede late Tuesday night until "every vote is counted," and absentee votes must also be tabulated; 1,536 were returned as of Tuesday. But based on the vast majority of votes cast during early voting and on Tuesday, and insider views that the absentee ballots most likely will not affect the outcome, Walton appeared to be headed toward a win and a January inauguration as the 63rd mayor of Buffalo – the first woman to hold the office.

Her supporters at the Poize Nightclub on Niagara Street greeted her with chants of "Madam Mayor, Madam Mayor!"

"I hate to say I told you so," Walton told jubilant supporters.

Only one other candidate – Scott Wilson – could appear on the November ballot after he filed on an independent line, but his designating petitions are being challenged at the Erie County Board of Elections. Now the results may spell the end of Brown's long career in Democratic politics as a Council member, state senator, mayor of New York's second largest city and even a stint as chairman of the state Democratic Party during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's 2018 campaign.

Walton, 38, was leading Brown by a significant margin late Tuesday, even scoring a majority of votes cast on primary day and in early voting. Her victory followed a left-leaning campaign that built surprising strength in finances and organization in its closing days. While Brown, 62, aired soft TV ads that seemed to reflect strength and confidence, Walton jabbed the mayor as out of touch with average voters, under investigation by a federal grand jury, and a pawn of "billionaire" donors unwilling to relinquish his 16-year grip on City Hall.

The results seem to introduce a new brand of Democratic politics to Buffalo and a rebuke to the steady hand Brown emphasized as his main attribute during a time of "renaissance."

Speaking with reporters late Tuesday, Walton was asked if she considers herself to be a socialist. Her response: "Oh, absolutely. The entire intent of this campaign is to draw down power and resources to the ground level and into the hands of the people."

Walton told cheering supporters at her Poize nightclub headquarters on Niagara Street that she knew all along her appeal to "ordinary working families" would prevail.“We set out not only to change Buffalo but to change the way progressive politics are run," she shouted. "I brought my island of misfit toys together. This is organizing. When we organize we win.”

“Today is only the beginning," she added. "This is about building the infrastructure to challenge every damn seat. I’m talking about committee seats, school board, Common Council.”

“All we are doing in this moment is claiming what is rightfully ours.”

Her volunteers made 19,000 calls Monday night, "calling every Democratic primary voter in Buffalo with a phone number in the voter file," said campaign spokesman Seamus Gallivan.

Brown would enter Buffalo history books not as the victorious five-term mayor, but as the target of the most improbable upset in anyone's memory. When he finally appeared with his wife, Michelle, before his dazed supporters around 10:40 p.m., he would not address the possibility of defeat.

"Things are very tight. They are too tight to call now," he said, vowing to wait until a final tabulation.

"We are going to continue to move forward," he said, never mentioning his opponent's name. "We are going to make sure every single vote is counted."

Absentee ballots must be postmarked Tuesday in order to be counted and about half already have been returned. But in a phone call to her mother at her election night party, Walton was confident that her win was assured.

"Mommy I won!" she said. "Mommy I'm the mayor of Buffalo."


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