Candidates in the June 23 Democratic primary for the 138th Assembly District squared off Thursday night in a Voice of the Voter debate held at the WXXI studios.
Incumbent Harry Bronson is facing a challenge Alex Yudelson. Bronson is running for a sixth term, but this time around, the Monroe County Democratic Committee has endorsed Yudelson.
One of the strongest areas of disagreement between the two candidates is on how the Rochester City School District should be governed. Yudelson, on leave from his job as Chief of Staff to Mayor Lovely Warren so that he can run, agrees with the mayor in that there should be some type of state takeover, at least temporarily, of the district.
Bronson does not support a state takeover.
"If you think one of the school board members are that bad, then do a process to remove them, but do not steal the parents right to vote on who is going to run their school district," Bronson said. "Let’s keep the school district in local control with parents and children’s voices being heard."
Bronson pushed for a state monitor who was recently appointed to help oversee the academics and finances of the city school district, but Yudelson says stronger steps are needed.
“It doesn’t bring me great joy to say that, I think for a period of three to five years, the school board should be removed from power, and the state should work with Superintendent Dr. Myers-Small, who I think is great, by the way," Yudelson said. "I don’t think it’s so outrageous to say that the state should work with the superintendent who can work with this community to help fix a broken system."
Another issue the candidates addressed during the debate was calls by some people around the country during recent protests to defund police departments.
Yudelson sees a need for shifting some budgets around, but not getting rid of police altogether.
“I do support looking at defunding the police, but I think it’s important that we define what that is; that is not abolishing the police, which I do not support. That is looking at our funding levels across the state, city, county. Looking at our funding levels and making sure that we’re investing in the communities that need resources and not over investing in law enforcement," Yudelson said.
Bronson would like to see funding moved from police departments into helping support communities of color. He said the state legislature has already taken step to keep law enforcement from misusing its power.
“We have passed laws to make it so that police officers cannot use racial profiling as they’re performing their duties, many of those things we’ve done. That’s just in law enforcement, but we have disparities for people of color in health, in housing and in education," Bronson said.
The 138th Assembly District includes the towns of Henrietta and Chili, and part of the city of Rochester. Peter Vazquez is the Republican candidate who will be on the ballot this fall.
Voice of the Voter is a collaboration that includes the Democrat & Chronicle, CITY Newspaper, WDKX Radio, 13WHAM-TV and WXXI.