Buffalo’s run becomes an early test for a divided Democratic Party

An unexpected showdown between Buffalo, the mayor of New York and the young progressive activist who defeated him in a Democratic primary earlier this year is turning into a new testing ground for New York Democrats before what will likely be a series of contentious electoral contests that will pit progressives and moderates against each other. against each other next year.

The race to be decided next week pits India Walton, 39, a nonprofit leader and a self-described Democratic socialist, against Byron Brown, 63, a former chairman of the New York Democratic Party. seeking his fifth term in the mayor’s office.

Walton, moved to run after witnessing Buffalo police shoving and seriously injuring a 75-year-old man during protests over the murder of George Floyd, scored a surprise surprise by Brown in the June Democratic primary. Brown announced a few days later that he would run for the general election as a written candidate.

Now, with Election Day less than a week to go, an avalanche of Democrats from New York City has entered the race on the shores of Lake Erie to find the chosen candidate.

“It’s a very high-profile race, and people on both sides outside of Buffalo have been involved,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris (D), the deputy majority leader representing a borough in Queens.

Earlier this month, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D), who represents Nassau County on Long Island in Congress, was puzzled by incumbent Brown. Gianaris held a fundraiser and appeared at a rally for Walton, the official Democratic nominee. This weekend, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D) called for volunteers to help with Walton’s campaign.

Senate Majority Leader Charles schumerChuck Schumer535 ‘Presidents’ With Veto Power: Why Budget Agreement Still Elusive The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented By Facebook – Democrats Insist Budget Consensus Closes As Methane Price And Carbon Emissions Talks will help the US weather the climate MORE (D) and Sen. Kirsten gillibrandKirsten Gillibrand Democrats try to back Manchin in eliminating paid family leave proposal Crucial talks on Biden’s agenda enter home stretch Democrats cut paid leave from spending deal amid Manchin’s opposition MORE (D) back Walton. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Energy & Environment – Presented by American Clean Power – Democrats Prepare to Grill Oil Executives Dog Trick or Treat: Lawmakers Host Annual Halloween Puppy Party Merkley, Warren and Markey sound the alarm about the provision of ‘dirty’ hydrogen in the climate agreement MORE (D), who was one of the first to call for the resignation of Jay Jacobs, Brown’s successor as chairman of the state Democratic Party, after Jacobs compared backing Walton to backing David Duke, the former Klansman who ran for a position in Louisiana.

The late endorsements don’t seem to have helped Walton. A poll conducted by Emerson College for WIVB-TV, released Wednesday, showed Brown led Walton by a margin of 54 to 36 percent, even though his name will not appear on the ballot. The 18-point difference is a wider advantage than the 10-point advantage Brown enjoyed the last time Emerson conducted a race poll in August.

But New York Democratic activists and strategists see a longer game behind the sudden interest in a mayoral race on the other side of the state, a microcosm for a broader evolution within a statewide Democratic Party that has been virtually frozen for one of each.

“This is a great battle within the Democratic Party and in the country as a whole,” Suozzi said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s about Buffalo, it’s about New York State, and it’s about the United States of America. The president spoke of the soul of America in his career. This is the soul of the Democratic Party. “

For the past 10 years, Democratic politics in New York was largely controlled by the former governor. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoJumaane Williams Running for New York Gov. Katie Couric Official: CNN Shouldn’t Have Let Chris Cuomo “ Pick ” Him With His Brother Andrew During Pandemic State Department Issues First U.S. Passport With a gender marker X PLUS. But in recent years, that control was shaken by progressive candidates like Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman, who defeated Democratic incumbents in recent years; by Attorney General Letitia James (D), who won the job in 2018; and by a new generation of state legislators who claimed control in Albany and forced an ambitious agenda that Cuomo had been unwilling to advocate.

When Cuomo was forced out of office earlier this year amid a cloud of accusations of inappropriate behavior towards women, he produced what amounted to a political earthquake that shook a tsunami of suppressed ambition.

Now, many who hoped to win higher office are taking their first steps to appeal to the Democratic base, and Buffalo is a useful first stop.

Suozzi, who ran for governor in 2006, is said to be contemplating challenging the governor. Kathy hochulKathy HochulJumaane Williams Runs for Governor of New York NY, NJ States of Emergency Issue Ahead of Nor’easter The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Uber – Biden Makes Speech As Tax Questions Rise MORE in next year’s Democratic primary.

“I would love to be governor of New York, but right now I’m focused on getting [state and local tax deductions] done here in Washington, give the governor the opportunity to show that she is doing a good job, ”Suozzi said.

Hochul, who hails from Buffalo, has not been involved in the race. Neither does another potential candidate for governor, James. If the state attorney general is running for the state’s highest job, Gianaris is likely to be among Democrats seeking his current job, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

“There are some fierce protectors of the status quo within the Democratic Party, and the energy within the Democratic Party right now is for more aggressive change,” Gianaris said in an interview. “The Democrats in Buffalo spoke. Now encouraging people not to support the Democratic candidate who won fairly is insane. “

Schumer may be playing his own defense against a possible major challenge next year. Schumer has struggled in recent months to work with Ocasio-Cortez, a proven fundraising powerhouse who would pose a substantial threat to her political career.

The two sides see tough options for Democrats going forward, one embracing a growing wave of progressivism that has swept through New York state politics and another pursuing the art of political compromise aimed at winning over centrist voters across the globe. country.

Walton supporters say a new era of progressivism is dawning, whether moderate Democrats want to acknowledge it or not.

Defenders of the status quo keep making excuses. The headline was not paying attention or participation was low or it was an aberration for many different reasons. But now we’ve had AOC and Jamaal Bowman and [Rep.] Mondaire jonesMondaire JonesOvernight Energy & Environment – Presented by American Clean Power – Democrats prepare to question oil executives Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over ‘dirty’ hydrogen supply in climate deal Climate advocates set their sights on Wall Street MORE, ”All of whom won the primaries over the more moderate Democrats, Gianaris said. “Something is happening in the Democratic Party and those who do not see it, who do not open their arms to this element of the party, will probably suffer politically.”

But for Brown’s supporters, the race has become a message test that will apply to Democrats across the country, just as some candidates who supported the elimination of police funding in the 2020 elections helped the Republicans to spread that message to other Democratic rulers in much more moderate suburbs.

“I am very concerned not only for the people of Buffalo, certainly, and for my state and for our country, but I am concerned about what will happen the day after Election Day if the self-confessed socialist wins,” Suozzi said. “The extreme left has not had so many victories, but they have had victories, and we are receiving nicks and cuts. And the right, especially the far right, is promoting that message as “the Democrats.” We can’t be defined by that message, so we have to do something. “

Cristina Marcos contributed.


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