Opinion: Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton deserves Democrats’ endorsement

The lack of support for democratic socialist India Walton among New York state Democrats is unacceptable and foolish politics. 

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Alexandra Chan

India Walton is a democratic socialist who won the Buffalo’s mayoral Democratic primary in June. While Buffalo’s majority-Democratic electorate would typically ensure Walton’s election as mayor, some of her fellow Democrats have refused to endorse her. (Staff Photo by Alexandra Chan)

By Kevin Kurian, Opinion Editor

Democratic socialist India Walton defeated incumbent Mayor Byron Brown’s attempt to seek a fifth term in the Buffalo mayoral primary in June. In this predominantly Democratic city, the primary victory would typically ensure Walton’s place as the first Black woman to serve as mayor. However, Brown decided to initiate a write-in campaign to challenge Walton in the general election, resisting the will of his city’s Democratic voters. Walton’s candidacy has been met with derision by members of the Democratic establishment, with some refusing to make an endorsement and others openly backing Brown, who is the preferred candidate of the Buffalo Republican Party. The New York state Democratic party has acted shamefully and should throw its full support behind Walton’s rightful candidacy as the Democratic nominee. 

Walton is eminently qualified to serve as mayor. She has led her community as a community organizer, union representative and the founding executive director of a housing nonprofit. Her life story similarly prepares her for public office. After having her first child at the age of 14, Walton was forced to leave school and worked at McDonald’s to support her family while earning her GED. She also worked as a nurse, equipping her with important medical experience — a useful asset as local executives grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. She is uniquely qualified to serve Buffalo, where three out of 10 adult residents and four out of 10 children live in poverty. In the primary election, Buffalo’s voters even agreed that a daughter of the city’s East Side could serve as mayor more effectively than Brown, the four-term incumbent. 

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) agree with Buffalo’s voters, recently endorsing her candidacy. However, New York Gov. Hochul and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin have refused to endorse a candidate. With this race occurring in Hochul’s home turf, it’s shocking that she’s refusing to support her own party’s nominee. U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.) went as far as to explicitly endorse Walton’s Republican-backed opponent. Democrats should support Democrats, instead of candidates supported by the party of Donald Trump. Jay Jacobs, the chair of the New York state Democratic Party, justified the party’s refusal to weigh in on the primary, stating, “Let’s take a scenario, very different, where David Duke, you remember him, the grand wizard of the KKK, he moves to New York, he becomes a Democrat, he runs for mayor in the city of Rochester, which is a low primary turnout and he wins the Democratic line. I have to endorse David Duke? I don’t think so.” 

What a bizarre comparison to make, especially when India Walton is a Black woman who stands against the racism of the KKK. Instead of comparing Walton to the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, he should support his party’s nominee and dedicate financial resources to her campaign. 

In addition to moral and ideological reasons, there are also pragmatic benefits to supporting Walton’s candidacy. Jake Colosa, a member of the Young Democratic Socialists of America’s National Coordinating Committee, said that “if this is how the party reacts to a local election in one city, it is clear that the working class of Buffalo, New York state and the country needs a party of its own because winning primaries will not stop the party elites from opposing us.” If Democrats do not respect the results of their own primaries, they send a message to young voters like Colosa that they are ineffective leaders. Democrats cannot afford to alienate the youth demographic that helped deliver Joe Biden the presidency. 

When 2020 candidates begged the electorate to “vote blue no matter who,” evidently they were being duplicitous. In this case, the winner of a Democratic primary is not being supported by her state’s party solely because she’s a democratic socialist. The will of Buffalo’s voters should be respected. If the New York Democratic party wants to maintain their strength and credibility, they should endorse and campaign for India Walton.

Contact Kevin Kurian at [email protected]