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Democratic Candidates Spar During Mayoral Debate

By Staff –


debateRochester’s three Democratic candidates for mayor sparred during a heated mayoral debate Thursday, as the race continued barreling toward the Sept.12 primary.

Incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren, Monroe County Legislator James Sheppard, and former WROC-TV news anchor Rachel Barnhart traded political barbs during the televised debate, in which the candidates discussed issues ranging from the candidates’ campaign finances, to addressing the city’s growing opioid epidemic.

Barnhart initiated a heated discussion between candidates at one point, when she questioned the legality of Mayor Warren’s campaign finance disclosures.

The mayor’s campaign has recently been criticized for receiving excessive contributions, along with an additional $30,000 her campaign has received from a political action committee (PAC).

“The fact is Lovely Warren had a mirror campaign account that she used as her personal piggy bank,” Barnhart stated. “That is illegal.”

In response, Warren said her campaign has been fully “in compliance with the law,” and that the money from the PAC was moved to her campaign after it had been inadvertently shifted to the wrong account by Paypal.

Warren has returned some $20,000 in excessive funds to donors, as a result of the controversy.

The mayor also pointed to the challenges her opponents have faced with their campaign finances, during the debate.

“To be frank and honest, they both have issues with their accounts as well,” Warren said, nodding toward Barnhart, and then toward Sheppard. “Why don’t you pay your bills, and you return money as well.”

In addition, “You have a delinquent water bill,” she said to Barnhart, facetiously. “Why don’t you cut a check, give it to me, and I’ll drop it off in the morning.”

Relative to the city’s surge in opioid use, both Sheppard and Barnhart said they would explore creating legalized injection sites in the affected areas of the city, if elected, while Mayor Warren vehemently disagreed with the idea.

“That’s not the answer,” she stated.

Sheppard, former chief of the Rochester Police Department, also said he would work to improve police-community relations in the city, and that he would also support the creation of an independent Civilian Review Board.

“In terms of an independent police accountability board, I support it,” he said. “Not because I’m trying to gain votes. I support it because I have trust in this community.”

The candidates also discussed education, job creation, and viable development projects for the Parcel 5 location in Midtown.

Visit and to view video of the candidates’ responses.

The debate was sponsored by WROC-TV, and the League of Women Voters.

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