Progressive rising star and socialist India Walton stunned the political establishment when she upset the four-term incumbent in the Democratic primary for Buffalo mayor in June.
The Democratic establishment didn't see India Walton coming. When the registered nurse, activist and self-described socialist announced her plans to run for mayor of Buffalo in December 2020, no one seemed to take her seriously, especially four-time incumbent Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. During the campaign, he refused to debate her. But Walton kept her focus, running on a promise to reform the city's troubled police department, increase school funding and rebuild communities wrecked by poverty—an issue Walton is familiar with, having been a single mom at 14 and who grew up poor. Even on the campaign trail, she had to support herself doing DoorDash deliveries, which led to some awkward moments. "And I'm just like: ‘Here's your food. Don't make it weird," she told the Buffalo News. "But a lot of people are just, like, happy. It's just amazing how impressed people are that I do normal things." Walton won the June primary over Brown in a shocking upset that had some comparing her to fellow New York progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, who both unseated longtime incumbents. A vigorous write-in campaign by Brown interrupted Walton's hopes of making history as the first socialist and first woman to lead New York's second-largest city (Ballots were still being counted at press time). Still, the 4-foot, 11-inch dynamo's resilience and resourcefulness are the hallmarks of a progressive star-in-the-making.