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  • Jon Dusza, News Editor

Beyond: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Buffalo

Last Saturday, United States Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York came to Buffalo to campaign for Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton. This comes as Walton is locked in a heated battle for the Buffalo mayorship against incumbent Mayor Byron Brown, who has mounted a significant write-in campaign after his loss in the Democratic primaries.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez — often referred to as AOC — and Walton both underwent a similar rise in political relevance. During the 2018 midterms, Ocasio-Cortez challenged one of the top congressional Democrats, Rep. Joe Crowley, in the Democratic primary, and she pulled off an upset victory. India Walton, too mounted an in-party challenge against a party mainstay in her own community, Mayor Byron Brown, who was at one point the chair of the New York Democratic Party. Walton pulled off an upset victory in her race, too. The two have similar policies, as well, both challenging their more moderate opponents from the left, riding the wave of progressivism within the Democratic Party started by Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Their paths differ, however, in their opponents’ reactions to their primary losses. While Crowley called it a career, Brown has mounted a powerful write-in campaign against the Democratic candidate. Still, despite Walton’s entrance as an outsider, she has managed to gain the endorsements of many top Democrats, having the support of progressive Democrats such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and AOC during the primaries. Additionally, she has earned the endorsement of powerful, more moderate Democrats, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

These endorsements come at a crucial time in the mayoral race. This Tuesday, Nov. 2 is election day, with early voting open as of Oct. 23. As it stands today, a recent poll from WIVB and Emerson College puts the incumbent Brown at a 17-point advantage over Walton. Even if those end up being the results, this would be the most contested Buffalo mayoral election in over a decade. As such, local Buffalo politics is in the national spotlight as much — if not more now — than it ever has been, as this race can be considered a microcosm of the nationwide inner-Democratic Party battle between progressives, like Walton and AOC, and moderates, like Mayor Brown.

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