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Monroe County Democrats Optimistic, Despite Rumored Party Conflict

By Rodney Brown

 

Jamie Romeo

Monroe County Democratic Party Chair Jamie Romeo

After losing big in 2015, the question has remained: Can greater-Rochester area Democrats control the hemorrhaging between their party’s constituents, and the Democratic Party?

In a county which has more Democratic voters than Republican, Republicans have continued to dominate on election day. And, according to election results, less than 30 percent of Monroe County’s Democratic voters cast a ballot in the November 2015 election.

Consequently, the low voter turnouts have prompted rumors of a fracture within the Democratic Party.

Yet, through the smog of disarray, Monroe County Democratic Party chair Jamie Romeo said she’s optimistic she can rally voters in time for the 2016 fall elections.

Romeo, 30, became staff director for Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature, following a stint as chief of staff for former Sen. Ted O’Brien.

“There’s not one particular thing,” Romeo stated. “I think there’re a number of things that we need to do, and part of it we’ve already started, which is outreach. It is very important we get out there now, and start talking to people in the community about what the issues are that keep people home. Are there logistical issues? Is there some apathy, and lack of enthusiasm for the candidates?”

It hasn’t helped much that senior officials within the Republican Party have said, “working as a team” has been the reason for their ability to win in Monroe County.

Some GOP members have even also publicly highlighted the scenarios of political in-fighting within the Democratic Party as the reason Democrats have not shown up to vote.

However, initial speculation regarding a schism in the party surfaced following Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren’s surprise victory over then-incumbent Mayor Thomas Richards, during the Democratic primary.

Richards’ publicly endorsed Mayor Warren’s campaign after the loss, which ended his run for office.

Subsequently, several of Richards’ supporters separated from the rest of the party, and launched a new campaign to get the former mayor re-elected.

But, despite all this, local Democrats have said current rumors of the party’s split are overblown.

“The issue is not the party, the issue is the people,” Adam McFadden, a Democrat, and Rochester City Council Member, stated. “The party is just a label. The issue is the hearts of the people involved. There’re individuals involved who don’t have the best interests of the people in mind.”

Still, contrary to McFadden’s opinion, Edward Doherty, retired vice president of community programs at Rochester Area Community Foundation and author of Rochester’s “Poverty Report,” said Democrats inability to get elected may simply be due to feelings of disenfranchisement among voters.

Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden

Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden

The greater percentage of voters who stayed home in November were city residents with low to moderate incomes. And, since Democrats have been powerless in their ability to curb concentrated poverty and joblessness for residents within that demographic; Doherty said voters in those areas may have responded by not coming to the polls.

“We have the third-highest degree of concentration of poverty among any city in the U.S.,” Doherty stated. “The city school district, this year, says about a third of the incoming kindergarten students were born in the neo-natal intensive care unit. It’s not because there’re more kids born into the neo-natal intensive care unit in our greater Rochester area. It is because the ones that are, are located in one part of our community. We have county legislators that say, ‘why should they get involved, and they don’t have anyone with poverty issues in their district?’”

Yet, despite these problems, Romeo said she’s ready to face the challenges, head-on.

“We have rural areas, and urban areas, and we’re the party for the whole county,” Romeo stated. “And, I want to make sure we’re for everybody. We need to have an increased presence, to give people the opportunity to talk to us, and know that we’re here to communicate. Some people don’t get involved, or hear from their party or candidates, until someone’s seeking a vote. So, we want to try to step outside of that, and say, we’re here, and trying to change our image in the community.”

McFadden agreed, and said he believes voters have become sick of the political process, in the sense that they only see their elected officials around election time, or whenever they’re campaigning for votes.

“If your patient is in the hospital, and is diagnosed as being sick; you can’t come to see the patient every four years,” McFadden stated. “You have to be there regularly, to treat their condition.”

Nevertheless, with everything that’s gone wrong for Democrats until this year, there has been one bright spot at the end of the tunnel.

According to Henrietta Town Democratic leader and Commercial Real Estate Appraiser Simeon Banister, the reformation of the Democratic Committee in the town of Henrietta has revealed a promising future for the Democratic Party.

Banister said membership in Henrietta’s Democratic Committee has experienced a rebirth, as of late, and he hopes the new growth within the party will continue to produce new candidates, which may also drive voters to the polls.

Henrietta Town Democratic Chair, Simeon Banister

Henrietta Town Democratic Chair, Simeon Banister

“In hoping for the future, I think we’re dealing with a lot of our problems in a more clear-sighted way, that we haven’t done in the past,” Banister stated. “And that, ultimately, is going to make us a lot stronger. It’s important to see opportunities for growth for the party in places we haven’t seen it, that have a way of stimulating more activity. So, my sense of it is, if we can win in Henrietta, that becomes a demonstration, not only to our folks in town, but to the party at large, across Monroe County. It’s a reminder that it’s possible to win in the suburbs, and especially to win with non-traditional candidates. It says a real big deal about the possibilities, and the prospects about bringing in that kind of new leadership. And, that’s going to be engaging, and encouraging, folks to be a part of the party. That’s just a good thing, I think, for everybody.”

Every state Assembly and senate seat will be up for election on the ballot in 2016, according to Democrats.

Visit http://monroedemocrats.com/ for additional information regarding the Monroe County Democratic Committee.