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Buffalo's socialist candidate for mayor — endorsed by Sanders, AOC, and Schumer — appears to have been taken down by write-in campaign

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Matt Burkhartt for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Despite a litany of endorsements from a number of high-profile progressive lawmakers — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — socialist candidate India Walton appears to have been defeated in her bid for Buffalo mayor.

What happened?

Longtime Democratic Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown declared victory Tuesday night over the upstart socialist candidate, as early returns appeared to show the incumbent outpacing Walton by a sizable margin.

Walton, a community activist and former nurse, made national headlines only months earlier when she took down Brown in a shocking victory in the Democratic primary race for mayor.

In response to the primary loss, Brown launched one of the most ambitious write-in campaigns in recent memory. It seems to have been successful.

As of Wednesday morning, the vote tally showed write-ins garnering 59% of the vote to Walton's 41% with an estimated 68% of the vote reported, according to the New York Times election tracker.

Though it can't be officially confirmed that those write-ins are for Brown, it is the obvious expectation that a large majority of them contain Brown's name, Buffalo News reported.

Should his victory be confirmed in the coming days, Brown will have made history by becoming the only mayor to be elected to five terms in Buffalo. Had Walton won, she would have become the first socialist mayor of a major U.S. city.

Why does it matter?

If nothing else, Walton's defeat is a sign that progressive socialist politics are still not especially palatable to American voters — even to those from a heavily Democratic area. The city of Buffalo consistently votes Democratic, though the surrounding towns and villages that make up Erie County often vote Republican.

Brown made Walton's radical politics a central point of his write-in campaign, calling the election a referendum on socialist politics. He repeated the refrain again on Tuesday.

"Today's election was not just a referendum on the City of Buffalo. It was a referendum on the future of our democracy," he told supporters during his victory speech.

Walton, once considered the presumptive mayor, had big plans to overhaul the city's politics and policing.

According to Mother Jones, in her first 100 days, she planned "to sign a tenant's bill of rights that would install a tenant advocate and institute rent control. She wants to remove police from responding to most mental health calls. She plans to declare Buffalo a sanctuary city."

In a speech to supporters Tuesday night, Walton declined to concede but acknowledged the numbers weren't in her favor.

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