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Socialist community leader India Walton declared victory Tuesday evening in the 2021 Buffalo, New York, mayoral race.
Walton, who campaigned in part on reallocating funds from the Buffalo Police Department toward other services and community initiatives, ousted Democratic Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who was first elected in 2005 to lead New York’s second-largest city.
“This is the work of a well-meaning group of rebels and revolutionaries that had a bold vision on what we want the future of our city to look like,” Walton told cheering supporters on Tuesday evening. “All that we are doing in this moment is claiming what is rightfully ours. We are the workers. We do the work. And we deserve a government that works with and for us.”
Democratic Buffalo mayoral primary candidate India Walton reacts when her supporters tell her with 94% of the vote in that she’s going to be the winner against Byron Brown, Tuesday, June 22, 2021 in Buffalo, N.Y. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)
The mayor-elect was born in Buffalo and became pregnant at age 14. She earned her GED while pregnant, became a nurse and from there became a representative in the 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU), according to her campaign website.
Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party and a number of other progressive organizations endorsed Walton, who will be the first female mayor of the upstate city. New York Democratic-Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez congratulated Walton on her win in a Tuesday tweet.
Walton campaigned largely on holding Buffalo police accountable in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the national cultural reckoning that followed. Buffalo had its own shocking officer-involved incident in June of 2020 after a local news crew captured footage of Buffalo Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski shoving elderly activist Martin Gugino to the ground in front of city hall.
Charges were dropped against the two officers in February.
“Less money spent on policing means more money for youth employment, after school programs, and education,” Walton said in a May 17 video posted to Twitter. “If we want real public safety we need to invest in our communities, not keep throwing more police at the problem.”
While Walton has not used the word “defund,” she has advocated for reallocating $7.5 million from the Buffalo Police Department by taking city police out of mental health-related call responses and minor traffic enforcement responsibilities. She has also expressed interest in allocating those excess funds toward other services aimed at reducing crime, according to The Buffalo News.
“We expect the police to respond to all of our societal ills that really are the result of these austerity budgets, where we cut social safety net services and mental health services now the police are responding to everything from cars inappropriately parked in peoples’ driveways to mental health crises, and it’s just not a good use of their time or our taxpayer dollars,” Walton told the outlet in May.
Violent crime rose — and in some cases, continues to rise — in major cities across the U.S. in 2020. The number of people shot in Buffalo increased 90% in 2020 (355 victims) compared to 2019 (188 victims), as The Buffalo News first reported citing data from the city’s police department. Of those 255 people shot, nearly 88% were Black, though Black residents represent less than 40% of the city’s population, according to the outlet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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