NY Democrat apologizes after comparing Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton to KKK leader

Early Tuesday, state party officials tweeted regrets from Jay Jacobs for his clumsy characterization of Walton as akin to David Duke.

The leader of the New York State Democratic Party apologized this week after he compared India Walton, a Black nominee for mayor of the city of Buffalo, to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. 

Jay Jacobs, in response to a question Monday from Spectrum NewsMorgan Mckay about what it means to have outside candidates compete for important nominations, replied, “I think it then leads you to the question is it always a requirement of a Democratic elected official, or perhaps the State Chair or party chairs, is it a requirement that if someone wins the Democratic primary, they must always get the Democratic endorsement of these people? And that’s a question I would answer no, it’s not.”

Democratic Buffalo mayoral primary candidate India Walton delivers her victory speech after defeating incumbent Byron Brown in June’s election. (Photo: Robert Kirkham/The Buffalo News via AP)

“Let’s take a scenario,” Jacobs continued, “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. Now, of course, India Walton is not in the same category, but it just leads you to that question, is it a must?” he asked. “It’s not a must. It’s something you choose to do. That’s why it’s an endorsement. Otherwise, they call it something else, like a requirement.”

Walton, 39, is a self-identified socialist who won the nomination for mayor of Buffalo in a triumphant primary election victory in June over Byron Brown, a four-time incumbent and the city’s first Black mayor. 

Other New York Democrats have balked at Jacobs’ statements.

“The statement was totally unacceptable, and the analogy used was outrageous and beyond absurd,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said in a statement to The Washington Post. 

Democratic N.Y. Rep. Jamaal Bowman and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi both called on Jacobs to resign.

“It’s insane to equate India Walton, a Black woman, with David Duke, someone who supports the legacy of lynching Black people and the rape of Black women,” Bowman said in a statement. “This is the malignant narcissism of far too many white men. Jay Jacobs needs to resign or be removed.”

On Twitter, Jacobs had his say via the New York State Democratic Party, replying in a retweet, “This is what’s wrong with public discourse today — people want to find something to be unhappy about, so they twist statements, or ignore statements, to make their argument. That doesn’t make them true. Read the full comments.”

Walton issued her own statement, writing, “Let’s start with the obvious: I am a working-class Black mother, a Registered Nurse, and non-profit executive. I was duly nominated by Democratic voters who share my vision of a safe, healthy Buffalo, where everyone has housing, no one has lead poisoning, and City Hall isn’t raided by the FBI. What does it say about corporate Democrats that they can’t tell the difference between that and endorsing the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan?”

She added that she will remain disconnected from “political functionaries who are more accountable to high dollar donors than to Democratic voters.”

Early Tuesday on Twitter, the New York State Democratic Party sent regrets from Jacobs for his clumsy characterization.

“I should have used a different example, and for that, I apologize,” read his tweet. “As I stated at the end of the same interview: I look forward to getting together with India Walton for lunch, no matter the outcome, after the election.”

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