As the Democratic primary for mayor of Rochester draws near, both Mayor Lovely Warren and Democratic candidate James Sheppard have signed the League of Women Voters of the Rochester Metropolitan Area (LWV-RMA) and The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester’s (TIAR) Fair Election Pledge Campaign (FEPC).
Signing alongside a litany of other candidates running for office in Rochester and the surrounding suburbs announced by LWV-RMA Vice President Sheila Abeling on Thursday, Sept. 7, Warren and Sheppard have vowed to follow stringent guidelines for their campaigns moving forward. Namely, the candidates vow to carry out campaigns which are policy oriented, refraining from personal attacks toward each other and their credibility, as well as abstaining from ad campaigns which take quotes out of context to damage their opponents’ reputations.
“It’s a matter of integrity and honesty among candidates,” said LWV-RMA President Mary Hussong-Kallen. “We hope that by signing, it’s a public acknowledgment of their commitment to being fair and issue-focused in their campaigning.”
Fellow Democratic candidate Rachel Barnhart, as well as Green Party candidate Alex White and Republican candidate Tony Micciche, did not sign the pledge. However, both Patrick O’Flynn, running for reelection as Monroe County Sheriff, and his opponent Todd Baxter signed the FEPC, alongside three candidates for Rochester City Council at-large: Anthony Giordano, Mitch Gruber and Matt Juda.
With the primary set for Sept. 12, Hussong-Kallen noted that it is a bit late to predict how the future campaigns will carry out. However, she hopes, the values of the pledge will not be lost as the general election comes in.
“We surely hope that the winner of this primary adheres to all of the promises in our pledge,” Hussong-Kallen said.
The function of the FEPC as an authority relies entirely on opponents speaking up about each other as they see them deviating from the promises they agreed to. Kris Rogers of the LWV-RMA outlined the process should candidates not adhere to the pledge.
“The enforcement actually comes from other candidates themselves,” Rogers said. “If they feel their opponent has violated the pledge, they would file a complaint with our hearing panel, and we would hold a hearing with both candidates where they would outline what pledges they feel were violated.”
While the FEPC can not oust a person from running for office, should the panel find that a candidate did violate the the pledge they signed, the LWV-RMA issues a press release and statement on their website outlining how a candidate violated their agreement to run a fair and issue-oriented campaign.
The FEPC signing took place on the same day as the Democratic Primary debates; the only time in this election cycle where Sheppard, Barnhart and Warren will participate in a televised debate against one another.
With LWV-RMA serving as one of the co-sponsors of the debate, Hussong-Kallen outlined what she hopes to see from the candidates in one of the most heated election cycles in recent memory.
“This is the only appearance of all three candidates together publicly,” Hussong-Kallen said. “What we hope to see is really constructive interaction. It’s a real opportunity to address the public on issues in the context of one another. We’re seeing a lot of personal campaigning, but this is the opportunity to call one another to account.”