An avowed socialist is poised to become mayor of the city of Buffalo, upsetting the four-time incumbent in the Democratic primary race held on Tuesday. The city is heavily Democratic, so much so that no Republican is even running for mayor so she is almost certain to win the mayoral election in November.
In her lifetime, India Walton has been a 14-year-old working mother, a nurse, a union representative and a socialist community organizer.
Walton’s platform outlines plans to tackle a local affordable housing crisis and declare Buffalo a sanctuary city for immigrants, which limits a local jurisdiction’s cooperation with federal enforcement o f immigration law. And also the intention to convert the city’s fleet of public vehicles to electric cars in an effort to address climate change.
One of her key proposals foreshadows sweeping reforms to “public safety”, focusing on harm prevention, restorative justice and the root causes of crime instead of punitive action, according to her campaign platform.
Under her watch, police will no longer respond to most mental health calls and will stop enforcing low-level drug possession offenses. She also intends to require unpaid leave for officers under investigation for police brutality, among other measures.
Last year, Buffalo police sparked outcry when two officers pushed 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the pavement during anti-racism protests, causing a severe head injury.
Walton also focus on economic development and food access in Buffalo by prioritizing local, minority and women-owned businesses for contracts, establishing a public bank and supporting community gardens, her website says.
Akela Lacy has more on the race and about her ultimate goal of abolishing the police.
Brown, the incumbent, seemed to think he could defeat Walton by ignoring her campaign. He refused to debate her a single time and outraised her by more than 2-to-1, with a campaign war chest of upward of half a million dollars to Walton’s $150,000. The incumbent’s haul was padded by last-minute contributions from wealthy donors.
“I am an abolitionist. But I am also realistic enough to know that it can’t happen in one fell swoop. Because we have not built the infrastructure to maintain safety in our communities,” Walton told The Intercept. She acknowledged that her approach has earned criticism from the activist community, adding, “I do tend to be a bit more pragmatic in the way I view things. Governance means that sometimes you don’t always get to do what you believe.”
But in the long haul, Walton said, an abolitionist future “is ultimately the world that I envision for my children — where folks just care for and about one another, and we don’t need police.”
I fully expect the police in Buffalo to try all manner of tactics to obstruct her so that her policy gets discredited.
Are there any larger implications in the election of a socialist? One is that the socialist label is no longer a disqualifier and we probably have to partly thank Bernie Sanders for that. But apart from that, I think we should avoid drawing sweeping conclusions from isolated events like this. But it is encouraging.