Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has endorsed India Walton, the Democratic candidate for the mayor of Buffalo. Election day is on November 2, less than two weeks away.
“Today, I endorse [India Walton], the Democratic nominee for Mayor of Buffalo. She’s a community leader, nurse, and mother with a clear progressive vision for her hometown,” wrote Schumer on Thursday. “Dems are at our best when we build a big tent and forge inclusive coalitions to fight for everyday people.”
Though Walton, a socialist, won the Democratic primary for the position in June, the New York state’s Democratic Party establishment has aligned itself against her. Schumer’s endorsement stands in contrast to his state’s party, though it is standard for party leaders to endorse the party’s candidate in significant races.
Schumer appeared to acknowledge shady tactics waged by the state party’s establishment in his endorsement. “India Walton won the Democratic primary fair and square and is the nominee,” he wrote. “Throughout my career, I have worked long, hard, and diligently to bring federal resources to Western New York and I look forward to doing that with India Walton for the betterment of the people of Buffalo.”
Walton celebrated Schumer’s endorsement on Thursday. “I am honored to receive the endorsement of [Senator Schumer]. Together, we will beat back these Republican attacks and build the safe, healthy Buffalo we all need and deserve,” she wrote. She continued to highlight other high-profile endorsements like those of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).
If elected, Walton would be the first socialist mayor of a major city in the U.S. in 60 years.
Perhaps because of this, Walton’s candidacy has been marked with strife due to the state’s party establishment. Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who took over after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace, has not endorsed or otherwise vocally supported Walton, and important state Democrats like Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and state Chairman Jay Jacobs have remained similarly unsupportive.
Jacobs made headlines earlier this week after comparing a hypothetical endorsement of Walton to an endorsement of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, one of the most detestable and racist living figures in American history. Jacobs later apologized for the comparison — though not until he faced considerable backlash.
The party has made some other desperate moves in attempts to block a socialist mayorship. In August, Buffalo’s Common Council explored the possibility of getting rid of the mayoral position entirely after sensationalism and fear mongering took over prominent Democrats and some local media outlets.
Further, incumbent Mayor Byron Brown has refused to concede his opposition. Despite a court ruling that his name couldn’t appear on the ballot as a third party candidate, Brown has been aggressively pursuing a write-in campaign, gathering the endorsements of powerful unions. As Walton has pointed out, some of Brown’s major financial backers are Republican-affiliated real estate developers and GOP dark money groups.
Walton is still in a powerful position. She has gathered the support of several unions herself as well as the support of national progressive and socialist organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party and Run For Something. As a result of Brown’s write-in campaign, however, it is still unclear who will come out on top next month.
Brown’s tenure has been marked by financial mismanagement and scandal involving government contractors with ties to the mayor’s campaign. The incumbent mayor has touted the support of local police officers, despite a failure, critics say, to reign in corruption and violence by the Buffalo Police department.
Meanwhile, Walton has run on a campaign promising to address public safety by expanding non-police de-escalation resources, like involving social workers in mental health outreach and investments in restorative justice in place of imprisonment. She has also promised to invest in traditionally marginalized communities like the city’s East Side, which is majority Black.