By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

In a congressional primary race that’s been framed as part of a broader battle for the future of the Democratic Party, Nina Turner has won not only an endorsement but on-the-ground support from one of the most high-profile progressives in the U.S. House of Representatives: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was in Cleveland on Saturday to campaign for Turner, a former member of the city’s council as well as the Ohio state Senate. More recently, Turner served as a national co-chair for the 2020 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is also backing her bid to represent Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.

“This isn’t about Nina versus any opponent; this is about the people versus big money,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a Saturday event. “This is a deep blue seat. It’s a deep blue seat. Districts like Ohio’s 11th should be leading the country on issues. They are opportunities, they are very rare opportunities, very rare districts like this one that can take and be visionary.”

Asked why she endorsed Turner, Ocasio-Cortez told the local 3News, “I think it’s extremely clear that Nina Turner is the candidate in this race that answers to the people of Ohio first and foremost.”

“She has supported, she has worked in this community, she has served in this community, and she understands this community’s needs, and she is a candidate that I think can be trusted to bring people’s voices to Washington,” the congresswoman added.

While early voting started more than two weeks ago for the crowded primary with 13 candidates, Turner’s main opponent is Shontel Brown, who chairs the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and serves on the county’s council. Brown has been endorsed by key establishment figures including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the majority whip.

On Saturday, as Brown canvassed on Cleveland’s West Side, Turner and her supporters also knocked on doors in the city and suburban Cleveland Heights.

“Canvasses are where the fight gets won,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a launch event. “Right here, this is where the work happens and I love being where the work happens—where we actually get our hands dirty in the work of knocking on our doors and having conversations with our neighbors and building actual community. There’s no replacement for that.”

“We’re knocking on doors that have never been knocked,” Turner tweeted Sunday. “Ohioans who’ve been left behind and excluded from the democratic process.”

“Young folks. Black and Brown folks. Working-class folks. They’re not hard to reach—they’re hardly reached,” she continued. “It’s time to expand the electorate.”

Another nationally known progressive in Congress is planning to visit Ohio to support Turner next week. Sanders is set to travel to Cleveland and deliver a keynote speech at a get-out-the-vote rally for the candidate on July 31.

Sanders, who endorsed Turner the same day she formally announced her candidacy in December, has said that “she deeply cares for working families and she has the heart to be an effective, unwavering fighter for them in Congress.”