Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren launched her re-election campaign to a room packed cheek to jowl at Brue Coffee on Monday night, making her the fourth entrant in a potentially contentious mayoral race.
“Three and a half years ago we made a commitment to each other; I asked you to believe in my ability to lead this city to a brighter future, and you asked me never to forget about where I came from,” she said.
Where she came from was the diverse neighborhood nearby, as well as the neighborhood on Jefferson Avenue where her grandparents lived where she first witnessed the economic and structural challenges that held back many poorer families.
“Everything we are, and everything we have the potential to be, depends upon us believing in each other and our commitment to take care of each other,” she said.
Warren spoke to her accomplishments while in office, saying thousands of jobs have been created or retained in the city, more children are in pre-school and the crime rate has reached a 30-year low as police and community relations improve.
“We said we’d bring more opportunities—and we did,” she said. “We said we would fight for all Rochesterians—and we did.”
One accomplishment that was greeted with rousing cheers and applause was the end of the red-light camera program, which the mayor had argued hurt low-income residents of the city disproportionately with hefty fines.
“You elected me to stand up for you come hell or high water, and I will stand up for you,” she said.
Warren also pointed to her role as a mother as a strength of her candidacy.
“When you have a mayor who’s also a mother, you get a leader who will fight every day to make this city a place where all of our children can realize their full potential,” she said.
Warren joins a field where former police chief and County Legislator James Sheppard was first to put down his stake. He was followed by broadcast journalist Rachel Barnhart, and last week, Alex White, a Green Party member announced he would run for the office.
In statements, both Sheppard and Barnhart welcomed Warren, all three of them Democrats, to the race but prepared to challenge her on her claimed accomplishments.
“I have been watching with growing alarm as our city government continues to flounder, mak-ing little if any headway on issues such as police and community relations, rampant violence, decaying relationships with neighborhood organizations and the lack of progress on jobs, pov-erty and education,” Sheppard said.
Barnhart said she wanted to see her opponents present plans to reduce poverty and grow the economy.
“So far, our campaign is the only one that has put forth transformative and comprehensive pro-posals to make Rochester a city of opportunity,” she said.
But several of the supporters attending Warren’s announcement had no doubts about her con-tributions to the city.
“You have to go by the facts,” said Kenny Jean, a 19th Ward resident, speaking about the city crime rate. “If you look at the statistics, it is down.”
“I believe in her because I’ve seen where she’s come from and what she’s done — and if she can do it once, she can do it again,” said a woman who also lives in the 19th Ward and said she goes by the name “February” with no last name.
“She’s a nice community person, and I believe in what she stands for,” said Robert Wilson of Hayward Avenue, who planned to work on Warren’s campaign.
Follow Anne Saunders on Twitter: @asaunders_rbj
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