The June Democratic primary was just the first word in the City Council race.
Now comes the final word and the field has opened beyond just Democrats.
Eleven designated candidates and one write-in candidate are vying for five seats. Three candidates – Jayvon Johnson, Ann Lewis and Marcus Williams — are running on the Republican and Conservative lines.
The primary reduced the field of 16 Democrats, but two of those who didn’t make the cut are running in the general election on the Working Families line. Three Democratic primary winners also are on the Working Families line. (minorityreporter.net/city-council-candidates-respond-to-key-issues/).
It’s been decades since any city leadership has come from the Republican party. Republicans won four at-large seats in 1969, according to the Monroe County Board of Elections. “Lonesome” Charlie Schiano was the most recent Republican to win a City Council seat, which he did in 1971 and 1975. The most recent Republican mayor was Stephen May, who held the office between 1970-73. May also served on City Council.
Republicans ran multiple candidates for City Council in the 1970s, ’80s, and in some elections in the ’90s, but in the past decade had only one or two candidates per election cycle.
“While there are significantly more registered Democrats in Rochester, there are also registered Republicans,” Robert Zerby, leader of the Rochester City Republican Committee, wrote in response to an email requesting perspective on the number of Republicans in the race.
“These Republicans may be better represented by individuals with similar ideas about how a government should operate,” he wrote. “The best solution to any question requires a broad evaluation of the matter. Having individuals with differing viewpoints borne of differing ideologies, such as political party affiliation, can only serve to ensure that the best possible solution is attained.”
Minority Reporter interviewed Lewis and Williams and Antonia Wynter, who is on the Voice of the People line. Johnson did not respond by deadline to a request sent to an email address provided by the Republican committee. The conversations have been edited for space and clarity.
Ann Lewis, who had run unsuccessfully for City Council and for New York State Assembly as a Democrat, said her change in parties was no different than other politicians who have switched affiliations.
“I take the best of all parties and my goal is to help all people,” she said. “At this point for a local race, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in.”
Lewis, a special education teacher in the Rochester City School District, is focused on education and opportunities to improve generational wealth.
She said students need to be “truly educated … Yes, you graduated with a high school diploma, but it should be that you have a certification in a trade before you graduate. Say, for example, you go on to college, when you come back you can barely find a job. So if you have a trade you can fall back on, that would even benefit you more until you can get whatever job you might want.”
Lewis supports a living wage for all, help for homeowners and renters, and conversion of vacant lots into urban farms to address scarcity of healthy foods in many neighborhoods.
Lewis, who was involved in protests last year over the death of Daniel Prude, said there are candidates for City Council who are “tearing up the city” and should be “ashamed of themselves. That’s not how you make changes, by destroying the city.”
Williams, who described himself as an entrepreneur who also does business and personal development and coaching, said he is running on a platform to restore Rochester.
“We need to focus on unity over division,” said Williams, formerly a Democrat. “My main focus is reducing the crime and the violence through actual solutions and plans instead of the bickering back and forth.”
He said the city needs better fiscal policy and should focus on promoting business growth in Rochester rather than relying on business to come from outside the area into the city. He also supports the Republican and Conservative tenets of small government.
He said residents want to see improvement in the way the city spends money. He said he would focus on programs such as trades, mentorship and job training. He said that would create the financial ability needed to increase homeownership.
He would start an initiative called Be the Police, where individuals from what he called underserved and high-impact areas would seek careers in law enforcement. “In order to change the city police, we need to be encouraging people in those communities to go out and be the police. If we don’t get more people that are concerned that want to be on the police force, then we’re going to continue to hear people complain.”
Antonia Wynter said her commitment to the community began before she ran for City Council and will continue after Nov. 2.
“Win or lose, I’m still out here to fight for the people and to make sure things are running the way they should be running so that Rochester can be the best city we can be,” said Wynter, who works as a marketing, public relations and communications specialist. “However, I realize being elected to City Council … offers some autonomy to be able to affect those changes … from the inside to help people understand what laws need to be passed, what programs need to have funding … .”
She said there’ve been times, such as the recent crisis with transportation for city school students, where elected officials have been absent. “A lot of times there are things happening in our community and we don’t see officials at events. We don’t see them really speaking out for things we need them to speak out.”
Wynter’s platform is based on fair housing, children and families with mental health concerns and special needs, green jobs, downtown revitalization and community policing. She said police are necessary, but there have to be other options as well. She said she’d like to see more funding for organizations such as PAC/TAC and Save Our Youth.
Even though she’s not part of a major party, Wynter said she doesn’t see herself as an outsider. “I allow myself to be linked to people who share the same ideologies, about making changes for the betterment and improvement of our city. … I strive for unity.”
The full slate of City Council candidates by party and in the order in which they appear on the ballot:
Democratic: Willie J. Lightfoot
Democratic: Stanley Martin
Democratic: Mitch Gruber
Democratic: Kim Smith
Democratic: Miguel A. Melendez Jr.
Republican: Ann C. Lewis
Republican: Jayvon Johnson
Republican: Marcus C. Williams
Working Families: Victor H. Sanchez
Working Families: Stanley Martin
Working Families: Jasmin D. Reggler
Working Families: Kim Smith
Working Families: Miguel A. Melendez Jr.
Voice of the People: Antonia N. Wynter
Patricia McGahee is running as a write-in candidate.
In other races, Malik Evans is running unopposed for mayor after winning the June primary.
Four candidates are running for three seats on the Rochester City School District Board of Education. (minorityreporter.net/candidates-for-the-rochester-city-school-board-share-their-vision-for-the-district-how-to-make-it-reality/.)
Legislative races in the 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th districts that include city neighborhoods are contested.
Election Day is Nov. 2. Early voting runs Oct. 23 through Oct. 31. For sites and details, go to www.monroecounty.gov/elections-earlyvoting.