Sen. Chuck Schumer endorsed democratic socialist India Walton Thursday over four-term incumbent Byron Brown in the hotly contested race for Buffalo mayor.
The move puts Schumer — the powerful Democratic majority leader who is up for re-election himself next year — in sync with the left-wingers in New York’s Democratic Party, including democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Walton shocked the political world by defeating Brown in the Democratic primary, the biggest upset in New York politics since Ocasio-Cortez toppled ex-Congressman and Queens Democratic Party leader Joe Crowley in the 2018 primary.
But Brown is running a formidable write-in campaign in the general election. Early voting for the Nov. 2 election begins on Saturday.
Schumer’s backing of Walton puts fellow moderates who have remained neutral in the race in a tough spot — particularly Gov. Kathy Hochul as well as state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs.
Hochul is from the Buffalo area, so her decision to remain on the sidelines in such a pivotal race is glaring.
Jacobs apologized this week for invoking Louisiana Klansmen David Duke while explaining why he wasn’t endorsing his party’s nominee Walton in the general election.
Other moderate Democrats are backing Brown. Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi stumped with Brown in Buffalo last weekend, saying Buffalonians and New Yorkers can’t afford to let socialists run the state’s second-largest city.
In a statement, Schumer said Walton deserves support because she won the Democratic primary “fair and square” and he typically backs the Democratic nominee.
Before the primary, Schumer endorsed Brown for re-election and even did a robocall to Democratic voters to vote for the incumbent.
“As Buffalo voters start to head to the polls this weekend, I urge them to cast their ballot for India Walton as the next mayor of Buffalo,” Schumer said in the statement, first provided to the Buffalo News. “India is an inspiring community leader, mother, nurse and a lifelong Buffalonian with a clear progressive vision for her hometown.”
“India Walton won the Democratic primary fair and square and is the nominee, and I have always believed that the Democratic Party is a big tent and is strongest and most able to build national majorities and bring meaningful change when it is inclusive – that is exactly how the Senate Democratic caucus is structured,” Schumer said.
Walton was thrilled with Schumer’s endorsement.
“Let’s gooooooooo!!! I am honored to receive the endorsement of @SenSchumer. Together, we will beat back these Republican attacks and build the safe, healthy Buffalo we all need and deserve,” she said in a tweet.
The Schumer camp said working with both socialists and conservatives is standard business for him. The Democratic majority caucus in the US Senate headed by Schumer includes democratic socialist Sanders and conservative Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Schumer’s surprise endorsement could be viewed as a pre-emptive strike. Ocasio-Cortez will stump with Walton on Saturday and the lefty ecosphere has talked up AOC challenging Schumer in a primary.