New York State Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, and other members of the Rochester Black Democrat Caucus have called for the Monroe County Democratic Committee to stop allowing the city’s Democratic Committee seats to be “stacked with suburban residents at the expense of actual city Democrats.”
Assemblyman Gantt said in a statement Thursday that 14 percent of the committee’s members in the 26th district currently live outside the city, yet those members were allowed to vote during the committee’s endorsement process of the next Democratic candidate for mayor last Tuesday.
Three out of ten committees voted to endorse mayoral candidate James Sheppard as Democrats’ designated candidate during the beginning stages of the committee’s process.
“There has been an organized ‘stacking’ of the City Democrat Committee going on for far too long, and it has to stop now,” Gantt stated in a press release. “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. It makes no sense that residents of Irondequoit or Brighton would be sitting in City Democratic Committee seats and, in doing so, will get to vote on endorsing candidates for elected office in our city (the Mayor, the City Council, and the School Board). It is particularly troubling when you consider that these suburban residents, who pay no taxes in the city of Rochester, and choose not to invest their wealth in city neighborhoods, have no stake in the city itself. They don’t want to live in Rochester, but they want to control the politics here in the city. One has to seriously wonder why these individuals were stacked into these seats, and who benefits from this clearly non-representative, and un-democratic practice.”
Gantt and other city Democrats have recently pointed to a split in the Democratic Party, with incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren citing a lack of support from the Democratic Committee since she first ran for office in 2013, even after she’d won the Democratic primary.
According to Gantt, it’s a question of ethics.
“This practice may be legal, but it does not make it morally or ethically appropriate,and it simply must end,” he stated. “This unsettling trend in our party, of disenfranchising city Democrats, has been the cause of great distrust, and a lack of faith for many city voters–and frankly myself–for many years.”
Monroe County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Jamie Romeo, who was elected as chair in 2015, said there is at least one person on nine of each of the ten committees who live outside the city, but that live inside the same Assembly District as city candidates, which allows them to vote to endorse those candidates based on the committee’s bylaws.
“The committee members are technically an elected or appointed position,” she stated. “There were also some primaries last year, where people could primary to get those positions. But, it is true what they say in their release, how non-city residents can be put into these positions to vote in areas where they don’t reside. They are in the same Assembly District, but they don’t reside there.”
According to Romeo, although it would be too late to change the current bylaws while the present designation process is already underway, Gantt’s concerns are valid.
It’s something she said the committee will consider in the future.
“Our bylaws have not been updated since 2006, and, as we’re seeing the national party go through a period of reflection, we should also be doing that as well,” she stated. “We’ve also gone through a redistricting cycle. We’ll definitely be adding this item to our agenda at our upcoming meeting.”