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Suburban Democrats play role in city endorsements

Suburban Democrats are playing a role in deciding who gets endorsed by the party to run for Rochester city offices.

 The situation led Assemblyman David Gantt and the Rochester Democratic Black Caucus to cry foul Thursday, two days after Democrats representing three of the 10 legislative districts failed to endorse incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren. Instead, they voted to endorse county Legislator James Sheppard, a former police chief.

 Gantt and other members of the Black Caucus are calling for the Monroe County Democratic Committee to stop allowing committee seats to be “stacked” with suburban residents at the expense of Democrats who live in the city.

 “City Democrats are predominantly poorer and more likely to be of color (two groups who already have been historically disenfranchised by the political process), and this practice continues to disenfranchise these voters,” Gantt said in a statement Thursday. 

 This may have been a factor earlier this week when Democrats in the 7th, 26th and 28th legislative districts voted on their mayoral endorsements. Because the districts are based on county legislative lines, membership is not restricted to city residents if their district crosses town lines.

Monroe County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Jamie Romeo said the situation is not new but may have been exacerbated by redistricting. The committee’s bylaws date back to 2006 but are due for an update, she said. Her review of the membership of the district committees found nine of the 10 legislative districts covering Rochester had at least one non-city member.

Gantt said almost 14 percent of the voting members of the Legislative District 26 Committee were residents of Irondequoit or Brighton.

“This practice may be legal, but it does not make it morally or ethically appropriate and it simply must end,” Gantt said. 

Romeo said she already had asked her executive committee to review the 2006 bylaws with a view to making updates. Now this issue about suburban voters weighing in on city endorsements will be included in those discussions.

“We are definitely going to be adding that to our agenda,” she said. 

Any changes, however, would require voter approval from the county Democrats, including the suburban voters serving on these same legislative district committees. Given the procedural requirements, Romeo said, that vote would be unlikely to happen before this fall—too late to have any effect on the endorsements leading up to the Sept. 12 primary.

 Follow Anne Saunders on Twitter: @asaunders_rbj

 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.



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