A Long Island Democrat, Rep. Tom Suozzi, is making his most aggressive move in a potential bid to challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in a primary next year — by outflanking the former lieutenant governor in a local race on her own Buffalo turf.
Suozzi, The Post has learned, is pledging to help defeat the favored socialist candidate for mayor there, positioning himself as the leading moderate voice in the Democratic Party upstate before Hochul has a chance to.
Suozzi will appear in Buffalo Saturday to endorse four-term, incumbent write-in candidate Mayor Byron Brown against Democratic Socialists of America-backed candidate India Walton — a favorite of lefty firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Walton, a nurse, rocked New York state politics by defeating four-term Democratic incumbent Brown in June’s primary election.
It’s the biggest upset since AOC toppled former Congressman Joe Crowley, the then-Queens Democratic Party chairman, in the 2018 primary election for the 14th congressional, taking in portions of The Bronx and Queens.
Hochul has yet to endorse in the race. It’s not an easy call for the Democratic governor, who has been a moderate through her political career and is probably closer ideologically to Brown. But Walton, who like Brown is black, is the official Democratic Party nominee and would be the first female mayor in Buffalo’s history.
The county Democratic leader said Hochul might sit out the mayor’s race because it’s a fight between two Democrats.
“I wouldn’t expect her to come in and endorse her in that race,” said Erie County Democratic Party chairman Jeremy Zellner.
With Hochul still on the sidelines, Suozzi is clearly trying to show he’s the leading voice of the moderate, mainstream wing of the Democratic Party versus the AOC-inspired far-left DSA wing, sources said.
Suozzi, the former Nassau County executive who ran for governor in 2006 and was the first Democratic congressman to endorse Eric Adams for New York City mayor in the Democratic primary, declined comment.
But an insider close to Suozzi confirmed he would endorse Brown.
“Everyone talks about the danger of the socialists taking over the Democratic Party and the state. Suozzi is going to do something about it,” the source said.
Suozzi’s move is also seen as a poke in the eye of state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, who endorsed Hochul’s re-election earlier this week. Jacobs is also the Nassau County Democratic leader and Suozzi represents much of the county in Congress.
Another potential candidate for governor, Public Advocate Jumaane Wiliams, headlined a fundraiser for Walton.
Meanwhile, the Hochul campaign unveiled its first digital ad praising her first 45 days in office as governor, after she replaced ex-three term Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned following a sexual harassment scandal.
“I know New Yorkers. They are hard-wired to persevere and to prevail. And the promise I made to all New Yorkers right here and right now. I will fight like hell for you every single day. Like I’ve always done it always will,” she says at the end of the two-minute spot.
The Hochul campaign had no comment on Suozzi causing political mischief in her political base.
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