AOC stumps for India Walton

The Bronx congresswoman will headline a get-out-the-vote rally for Walton Saturday, as early voting begins in Erie County.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the Bronx congresswoman universally known as AOC — outlined Friday night her reasons for supporting Democratic nominee India Walton in the race for Buffalo mayor.

“She is really representative of a positive shift toward working people’s politics here in the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez told Investigative Post in an interview at the Walton campaign’s headquarters in downtown Buffalo.

She added that, to advance a progressive federal agenda — climate change legislation, anti-poverty programs, investments in infrastructure — the Democratic Party needs “down-ballot elected officials in executive positions…[who] really are accountable to everyday people.” 

Like Ocasio-Cortez, Walton is a Democrat backed by the labor-oriented Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America, among other progressive political organizations. Walton beat four-term incumbent Byron Brown in the June Democratic primary. Brown, lacking a ballot line in the Nov. 2 general election, launched a write-in campaign shortly after his loss.

“This isn’t just about how federal officials can help on the local level,” Ocasio-Cortez  said, when asked what progressives in Congress can do to help like-minded mayors in cities like Buffalo.

“Very often some of the most transformative federal programs have been inspired by courageous, grassroots, local leadership acting as almost like a laboratories for innovative policies.”

She offered as an example universal pre-K, a program piloted in New York City despite opponents warning it would prove logistically impossible. Now it is a part of the Biden administration’s legislative agenda.

Ocasio-Cortez has supported Walton’s candidacy since last spring, before the primary. Earlier this week she leapt to Walton’s defense after Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic Party chair, explained his decision not to endorse the party nominee by clumsily comparing her to David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and occasional candidate for public office.

The congresswoman will headline a get-out-the-vote rally for Walton Saturday, as early voting begins in Erie County. The rally will take place at the Town Ballroom in downtown Buffalo on Saturday at 11 a.m.. At noon, when early voting begins, supporters will be encouraged to cast early  ballots for the Democratic nominee.

The Brown campaign is staging its own get-out-the-vote rally in Cazenovia Park in South Buffalo at noon, hosted by South District Council Member Chris Scanlon. After the Brown rally, supporters will go to the nearby Tosh Collins Community Center — an early voting location — and cast write-in ballots for the incumbent.

Scanlon is one of three city legislators to endorse the incumbent, along with Masten District Council Member Ulysees Wingo and North District Council Member Joe Golombek. University District Council Member Rasheed Wyatt endorsed Walton Friday morning. The other five city legislators have remained neutral.

Wyatt’s endorsement gives Walton a popular champion in a district Brown won in the primary by 100 votes.

Ocasio-Cortez’s visit caps a week of good news for Walton: 

  • She was endorsed Thursday evening by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who supported Brown in the primary. 
  • U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand followed suit Friday evening.
  • The Working Families Party, which endorsed Walton in February, began to spend money in earnest on her campaign: $150,000 on TV ads, $30,000 on phone banks, and thousands more on mailers and other support.

Additionally, Jacobs’s impolitic remark drew condemnation from Democrats across the state — including Gov. Kathy Hochul. The governor indicated last week she would not endorse either candidate

Hochul is not the only prominent elected Democrat with a Buffalo constituency to avoid the fray. U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz have remained neutral, as well.

Ocasio-Cortez said it is a “foundational” prinicipal that Democrats “come together…to rally behind the party’s nominee,” as she did in last year’s presidential race. Ocasio-Cortez supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary; she campaigned for Biden in the general election.

“Violating that precedent is dangerous for our party,” she said.