Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton discusses policy agendas with WBNY and The Record


Cait Malilay

WBNY and The Record interview India Walton at her campaign office

Cait Malilay, News Editor

In collaboration with WBNY, The Record met with Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton on Oct. 17 at her campaign office to discuss her policy agendas.

In the last half decade, Walton was involved in several advocacy groups, but the turning point that inspired her to run for mayor was during the pandemic when she was working as Executive Director for the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.

She couldn’t believe the phone calls she was receiving from the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

Community members were reaching out saying that they were struggling with food insecurity and had no running water during the public health crisis.

What also sparked Walton’s interest in running for mayor was witnessing the young generation calling for leaders to handle police misconduct during the Black Lives Matter protests.

Referring to the incident involving two Buffalo police officers who shoved a 75-year-old man during a George Floyd protest, Walton said that she felt incumbent Mayor Byron Brown defended the police.

Walton felt compelled to do something and have a change in leadership.

One of her initiatives is to have “Mobile Crisis Teams,” which are civilians who are specially trained in handling mental health emergencies, rather than having police officers be the first to respond.

“We want people who are going to be able to de-escalate those situations before they turn violent or dangerous,” Walton said.

She said that even though the mayor’s office doesn’t have “explicit purview over schools,” she would like the city to support organizations that help ensure that mental health services are provided to the students, parents and family members.

Walton is excited to work with Erie County Legislator April Baskin and the Department of Social Services to make sure that resources are provided to victims of “intimate partner violence and sexual assault.”

“That includes folks of all gender identities and sexualities as well because we know that there is no one group of people who suffer,” she said.

Another topic addressed was gun violence.

Walton is a supporter of Life Camp, an organization founded by Erica Ford, whose mission is to prevent gun violence and provide youth and families with tools to stay out of the criminal justice system.

“Those are the types of initiatives we want to see in the Walton administration: how we lead with love, and care and set a culture that says that violence against one another is unacceptable,” she said. “There are also very practical ways we reduce violent crime: provide people with a decent living wage job.”

Walton also mentioned the importance of making sure that streets are well lit, street surveillance cameras are operating and “trusting relationships” are established between the police and community.

After addressing questions about safety, she was asked how she’ll prioritize the health and well-being of Buffalonians.

Walton is an advocate for Medicare for all and said that she’s always pushed for the New York Health Act, where she will continue by working with state legislators.

“I’m a person who believes that health care is a human right, and to know that there are folks who are suffering because someone needs to maintain their bottom line is just disturbing to me,” Walton said.

In the past, Brown has used the term “radical socialist,” against Walton.

Walton said that the term, “democratic socialist,” is meant to communicate the message that she isn’t “going to be another Democrat.”

“I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said it best: ‘All Democrats are not created equal,’” Walton said. “Being a democratic socialist to me, means that I am going to lead and govern for and by the people that I am serving. That is the role in my opinion in government, and I look forward to de-democracy and co-governance with the residents of the city of Buffalo.”

Walton also encourages the community to run for office.

“If your legislator is not voting in a way that you feel like is in your best interest, run,” she said. “We have to hold folks accountable on their promises if we are ever going to see change.”

How will Walton make herself available to the community?

She and her administration will “visit black clubs and neighborhood associations” to canvas and ask them what issues are most important to them, according to Walton.

Some community members of Buffalo say that Walton, who is 39 years old, is too young to run for mayor.

However, she argues that the mistakes, challenges and “diverse set of life experiences” she had to overcome are what make her a strong candidate.

“Youth, the vigor, the intellectual class and the arts and culture community are going to be at the forefront of leading us into the future of a better Buffalo,” Walton said.

When asked why she pulled out of the debate that was to happen between her and Byron Brown on Fox29, Walton said that she felt Brown should not get “preferential treatment” over the other candidates because he’s not on the ballot.

Another reason why she pulled out was because she felt that Brown didn’t talk about issues at the first debate that took place at the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library, but rather used that time to personally attack her.

“He talked about me, spoke poorly of me, it was disparaging, disrespectful and the voters need to know what the plan is for our future,” Walton said.

WBNY had a chance to follow up with Bruce Bryski, a political commentator and political science professor at Buffalo State College, who described this election as “very unique” and said that Brown is “in for quite a battle.”

“What’s going to happen in this race is that if people want to vote for him, he needs to have [them] do a write in vote and it’s very rare for a candidate to win a write in vote,” Bryski said.

At this point, Brown has a 50-50 chance of winning this election, according to Bryski, because he’s the incumbent and recognizable, yet Walton won the primary election and is beginning to get media attention.

Watching this mayoral race is not only important for local audiences, but on a national level as well because the Democratic Party is split, according to Bryski.

“You’ve got people like Joe Biden who is kind of moderate and he’s a little more conservative, but you’ve got people like Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman AOC who are way more liberal and who actually call themselves democratic socialists,” Bryski said.

Brown would lean more on the conservative or moderate side, whereas Walton sides on the latter.

“If India Walton wins this, that means that at the national level, the Democratic Party is taking another step to the left, much more liberal than what they are now,” Bryski said.

WBNY reached out to the Byron Brown campaign for an interview as well and did not hear back in time for the program.

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