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Zeneta Everhart, mother of Buffalo mass shooting survivor, wins City Council primary

by Andrew Wright
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City Council primary

Zeneta Everhart, the mother of a survivor of the Buffalo mass shooting, emerged victorious in the City Council primary after a hard-fought campaign. Everhart, who has become a vocal advocate against racism and gun violence since her son’s ordeal, secured the Democratic nomination to represent a Buffalo neighborhood close to the site of the tragic massacre.

Her opponent in the primary was India Walton, another prominent activist who made headlines in 2021 by defeating Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary but ultimately losing to him in the general election. Both women, African Americans, sought a position on Buffalo’s Common Council, representing an area that is still recovering from the devastating attack by a white supremacist at a neighborhood supermarket just over a year ago. The aftermath of the shooting was compounded by a severe blizzard in December, which disproportionately affected Buffalo’s Black communities, claiming the lives of 47 individuals.

In her victory speech, Everhart expressed her gratitude to her supporters, emphasizing that her win was a triumph for the community, especially the mothers within it. Walton, gracious in defeat, commended Everhart and expressed her intention to continue her activism, speaking truth to power and organizing for change.

Although new to formal politics, Everhart had prior experience working on the staff of state Democratic Sen. Tim Kennedy. However, her decision to run for the City Council was significantly influenced by the shooting incident that her son survived. Everhart has been actively speaking out against racism and gun violence, including testifying before Congress. Her campaign in Buffalo’s Masten District focused on addressing issues of affordable housing, education, and uplifting the East Buffalo community, which faced heightened challenges following the tragic shooting at the supermarket.

Walton, on the other hand, sought a political comeback after her unexpected victory in the 2021 mayoral race was overturned by a write-in campaign from the incumbent Brown. Despite the setback, Walton’s reputation as a former nurse and labor organizer garnered attention. Her progressive platform, aligned with democratic socialism, resonated with many constituents, but she faced opposition from centrist Democrats, the business community, and Republicans.

While Walton remained an outsider in Buffalo politics, Everhart, a former television producer, had quietly been establishing herself in the political sphere as an aide to a state senator. However, the love and support shown to her son in the aftermath of the shooting motivated Everhart to give back to her community, fueling her decision to run for the City Council.

The supermarket targeted by the white supremacist attacker falls just outside the district both candidates sought to represent. Throughout the campaign, Everhart emphasized her coalition-building skills, while Walton positioned herself as a challenger to the established political order, highlighting the need for change.

The county Democratic Party endorsed Everhart, while Walton received the endorsement of the left-leaning Working Families Party. Despite their competitive race, the two candidates maintained a friendly relationship, often embracing when they crossed paths.

With Everhart’s victory, Buffalo’s Common Council will once again include a female member after a nine-year absence. The primary elections across the state selected party nominees for various local offices, excluding statewide positions, in 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about City Council primary

Who won the City Council primary in Buffalo?

Zeneta Everhart emerged as the winner of the City Council primary in Buffalo.

Who was Zeneta Everhart’s opponent in the primary?

India Walton, another prominent activist, was Zeneta Everhart’s opponent in the primary.

What issues did Zeneta Everhart focus on during her campaign?

Zeneta Everhart campaigned on the need for affordable housing, education, and uplifting the East Buffalo community. She aimed to address the social and economic challenges faced by the community, particularly in the aftermath of the mass shooting.

What happened to India Walton in the 2021 mayoral race?

India Walton stunned the political establishment by winning the Democratic primary against longtime incumbent Byron Brown in the 2021 mayoral race. However, Brown made a successful comeback as a write-in candidate in the general election.

How did Zeneta Everhart’s background influence her decision to run for City Council?

Zeneta Everhart had been working as an aide to a state senator when her son survived a mass shooting. The incident motivated her to give back to her community, and she decided to run for City Council to address issues of racism and gun violence.

Are Zeneta Everhart and India Walton on good terms despite the competition?

Yes, Zeneta Everhart and India Walton maintained a friendly relationship throughout the campaign. They even embraced each other when they crossed paths, emphasizing that they were not adversaries.

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