ROCHESTER, N.Y. — India Walton scored an apparent victory Tuesday over four-term incumbent Byron Brown in a Democratic primary for Buffalo mayor, making her poised to become the first female and first socialist to lead New York’s second-largest city.
Walton, a nurse and community organizer who directed a Buffalo land trust, led Brown by 1,507 votes with all in-person votes counted, a near-insurmountable margin that almost matched the number of absentee ballots left to tally.
With Republicans failing to field a candidate, the primary victory clears the way for Walton to become mayor in the heavily Democratic city of 260,000 people.
Assuming Walton is elected, Buffalo would become the largest American city to have a socialist mayor since Milwaukee in 1960.
“Tonight’s result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we’re ready to serve them,” Walton said in a statement. “For too long, we’ve seen our city work for politicians, for developers, for the police union but not for ordinary working families.”
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Walton continued: “In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table.”
Walton had the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America, the country’s largest socialist organization, as well as the Working Families Party, the influential left-leaning third party in New York.
Brown, a former state senator, had been entrenched as Buffalo’s mayor since he was first elected in 2005, winning four terms before his apparent defeat Tuesday night.
A longtime ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Brown served a stint as the chairman of the state Democratic Party before relinquishing the post in 2019.
The incumbent mayor declined to concede during a brief speech Tuesday night, according to the Buffalo News.
“Things are very tight,” Brown said, according to the newspaper. “They are too tight to call now.”
Walton’s apparent victory marked a historic moment for the city of Buffalo, whose 62 mayors dating back to 1832 have all been men.
As Walton delivered her victory speech late Tuesday, her supporters chanted: “Madam Mayor. Madam Mayor.”
“This victory is ours,” Walton said. “It is the first of many. If you are in an elected office right now, you are being put on notice. We are coming.”
The Buffalo chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America congratulated Walton on her apparent victory with a series of tweets late Tuesday.
“Socialism won tonight,” the organization tweeted.
Follow Jon Campbell on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.