Weighing in on the results of Tuesday’s primaries, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said voters made their voices heard loud and clear. He noted voters want a different tone at the County Office Building, as the region moves past the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a year and a half of conflict with Bello and other county Democrats, two members of the four-member Black and Asian Caucus were ousted in Tuesday’s primaries — Frank Keophetlasy and Ernest Flagler-Mitchell. One of the caucus members, Calvin Lee, chose not to run, and Sabrina Lamar was unopposed. Minority Leader Vince Felder, who is not a part of the group but is closely aligned, also lost by a large margin.
Flagler-Mitchell made headlines last year when a lewd photo sent to a constituent was made public. A recent Monroe County District Attorney investigation claimed that he used his position to attempt to have sex with at least a dozen consitutents. Some of those instances were consensual.
The caucus is a group of breakaway Democrats who often vote with county Republicans.
This spring, Legislature President Joe Carbone, a Republican, sent out a letter saying his alliance with the caucus created a supermajority that has “neutered” Bello politically. They were also involved in a bitter dispute over the board of elections.
WXXI requested comment from county Republicans on Tuesday’s primaries but there was no response.
Bello said that voters were paying attention and wanted less division and fighting and more focus on them.
“We've heard a lot of talk leading up to the primary about power and who holds power for the sake of holding power,” said Bello. “And that's not what people are looking for. They're looking for, ‘What are you doing to help the community?’
“So I think people rejected this argument of, ‘vote for us, because we have power’ and instead are looking for, ‘what are you doing to advance the interests of the community and help us recover?’” continued Bello.
A statement from the caucus argues that they’ve made a lasting mark on their districts and county government, and got more representation and money for women and minorities. It said they pushed for the creation of the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and created a fund for families struggling to pay for funerals.
Bello gave Tuesday’s primary winners a ringing endorsement. Democrats William Burgess, Mercedes Vazquez Simmons, Susan Hughes-Smith, Carolyn Hoffman, Ricky Frazier and incumbent Rachel Barnhart all won their primaries Tuesday.
Rajesh Barnabas is leading party-endorsed candidate Albert Blankley in the 24th Legislative District but absentee ballots will likely decide the winner in that race.
“I'm delighted with the new members of the legislature, in particular, who are going to be coming in in January,” said Bello. “I look forward to working with them, to help their communities and the whole county in this recovery agenda that we laid out a few weeks ago.”