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Meet India Walton, the socialist who upset Buffalo's longterm mayor in a stunning primary victory

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India Walton
India Walton. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario

While most eyes were on the New York City Democratic mayoral primary, there was a political awakening taking place in Buffalo, the Empire State's second-largest city.

India Walton, a self-proclaimed socialist and political newcomer, defeated four-term Mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary, according to the Associated Press.

Brown's political defeat is a stunning loss for the longtime politician, a former state senator and former Democratic state party chairman who is a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

However, the loss represents the increasing strength of deeply progressive voters within the Democratic party, catapulting new faces into the levers of power across the country, from city council chambers to the halls of Congress.

Walton, a nurse and former teenage mother who ran an insurgent campaign against an establishment-backed incumbent, represents a new generation of leaders who are seeking big reforms, eschewing the more piecemeal approach to governance that many progressives have come to reject.

While she will also have to run in the November general election, the liberal tint of Buffalo puts her in an overwhelming position to win later this year.

If successful, Walton, 38, will become the first socialist mayor of a large American city since Frank Zeidler of Milwaukee, who left office in 1960 after a 12-year reign.

Here are some interesting things to know about Walton:

She grounded her candidacy with a strong grass-roots effort

Walton is a former nurse and community activist who did not run with the backing of most establishment figures within the party. Brown chose not to debate Walton during the primary campaign and ran a more low-key campaign.

In declaring victory, Walton noted that her campaign elevated the needs of residents over what she saw as business as usual.

"Tonight's result proves that Buffalonians demand community-minded, people-focused government, and we're ready to serve them," she 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. In our city, everyone will have a seat at the table."

She said with exuberance during her Tuesday speech: "When we organize, we win. We deserve a government that works with and for us."

Her campaign was decidedly progressive

During the campaign, Walton called for an increase in funding for the city's public school system and an expansion of opportunities for home ownership, according to The Buffalo News.

Walton has also advocated for $7.5 million in cuts to the Buffalo Police Department, by diverting funding away from the police for mental health calls and minor traffic enforcement responsibilities.

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She hopes to direct the reallocated money to youth employment living-wage jobs, affordable housing, and public education improvements.

"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," she tweeted last month. "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's jubilant victory call to her mother was caught on video

On election night, Walton rejoiced in her projected win, a come-from-behind triumph that she was thrilled to share with her family.

"Mommy, I won. Mommy, I'm the mayor of Buffalo. Well, not until January, but, yeah," Walton said to her mother via a phone call. "Yes, Mom. I won."

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the most prominent progressive voices in the country, praised Walton on election night.

"India Walton became a mother at 14 years old," she tweeted. "She earned her GED while pregnant w/ twins. She graduated, became a registered nurse, & then a representative in her union, 1199SEIU. Then directed a Community Land Trust. Tonight it seems Buffalo may be making her Mayor."

Read the original article on Business Insider