By Staff –
Five out of six local Democratic committees have voted to endorse Monroe County Legislator and former Chief of Police James Sheppard for mayor, in the Democratic Committee’s initial candidate endorsement process.
According to Sheppard’s website, he received 60 percent of the votes on Wednesday, and he also won the majority of committee votes in the 21st and 23rd districts.
On March 7, Sheppard also won the 7th, 26th and 28th Legislative Districts.
Overall, ten Democratic committees will vote in the process.
“Over the past three months, I have made over 600 phone calls, and visited more than 250 homes to share my vision for Rochester’s future, and I am gratified by the support I have received so far for my candidacy,” Sheppard said in a statement. “But I know that obtaining the Democratic Party’s designation remains very much an uphill battle against a sitting mayor.”
And, a battle it may be. Following Sheppard’s recent wins, several local Democrats, including New York State Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, and other members of the Rochester Black Democrat Caucus, have cried foul regarding the Monroe County Democratic Committee’s endorsement process, with Gantt calling for the committee to stop allowing the city’s Democratic Committee seats to be “stacked with suburban residents at the expense of actual city Democrats” last week.
“There has been an organized ‘stacking’ of the City Democratic Committee going on for far too long, and it has to stop now,” Gantt stated. “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).”
Gantt was referring to MCDC’s bylaws, which enable committee members who live outside the city, but that live inside the same Assembly District as city candidates, to vote to endorse those candidates for elected city offices.
Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden, one of incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren’s vocal supporters, has also recently called the committee’s voting process into question, and reportedly said in a Facebook post on March 22: “I’m sorry if you are black and supporting Sheppard. Please be aware that he is working with a group of people who is purposefully disenfranchising black Democrats.”
Subsequently, committee Democrats from the 25th legislative district wrote an open letter to Mayor Warren Wednesday, in a heated response to McFadden’s post, calling on the mayor to condemn McFadden’s statements, which the group said were “bigoted, disrespectful and false.”
But, McFadden said he stood by his comments, which he’d made after attending a committee meeting in the 25th district that had been made up of mostly white members.
“All in an effort to give James Sheppard the Democratic Party endorsement,” McFadden stated.
MCDC Chairwoman Jamie Romeo has also recently acknowledged city Democrats concerns, although she said it would be too late to change the current bylaws while the present designation process is already underway.
However, Romeo said MCDC plans to discuss updating the group’s bylaws at its next meeting.
“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.
Former WROC-TV news anchor Rachel Barnhart, who is also a candidate for mayor vying for the Democratic nomination, has also posted the following statement regarding the committee’s process on Facebook:
“It’s encouraging to see the party chairperson admitting there’s a problem. But, until we elect new leaders who are not beholden to either faction, we cannot unify and rebuild the local Democratic Party.”
Local businessman Alex White is also a candidate for mayor. White is running on the Green Party Line.