A crowded room of supporters filled the Workers United Union Hall on East Avenue Saturday morning as former Rochester Police Department Chief James Sheppard officially announced his candidacy for the Mayor of Rochester.
In his announcement, Sheppard did not shy away from addressing his issues with some of Mayor Lovely Warren's actions.
"When's the last time this administration has stood up to acknowledge a homicide? A double homicide? A triple homicide? A quadruple homicide? A mother and daughter dying as a result of arson? A young man shot in a downtown hotel?"
Sheppard said he believes the current administration follows a "philosophy of ignoring bad news." He said there is a deteriorating relationship between community and the police, citing the Black Lives Matter protest last fall that resulted in a number of arrests. He said his efforts will be grounded in transparency, inclusion and unity.
Sheppard said he feels he can attack some of the high priority issues effecting the city, such as poverty, because he has experienced them himself.
"Many of you best know me as the former chief of police for The Rochester Police Department. But I wasn’t born the chief of police. My pathway was filled with adversity, struggle, setbacks, and yes, the biases that confronts many persons of color"
In addition to being former Chief of the RPD, Sheppard currently serves as an elected member of the Monroe County Legislature, serving the 23rd legislative District.
Sheppard, the first candidate to officially announce their run for Mayor this year, said it wasn't about being first, but more about coming out with his announcement on his own terms.
Former TV reporter and anchor Rachel Barnhart has also hinted at a possible run. While she has made no official announcement yet, Joe Rittler, spokesman for Barnhart's exploratory committee released a statement Saturday morning:
"James Sheppard may be supported by one of the two Democratic political machines in our area, but there are serious unanswered questions about his past support of discriminatory policing policies, among other things. Voters deserve a candidate who will genuinely support policies that treat people of all races equally. Our friends and neighbors have an important choice to make this September and we look forward to helping them make an informed decision."
Gary Rogers, Spokesman for the Friends of Lovely Warren Committee released a statement about Sheppard's run which said in part:
"County Legislator James Sheppard has not delivered one single legislative initiative for his constituents since he has held county office and was the only legislator to vote against protecting taxpayer dollars when the County established the Office of Public Integrity, and now he wants to run for mayor."
"In stark contrast, under Mayor Lovely Warren's leadership our city has seen an unprecedented period of growth and progress with construction and investment, not only throughout downtown and our center city, but more importantly throughout our neighborhoods as well...Mayor Warren's careful fiscal stewardship has resulted in two bond rating upgrades for the City, she has brought hundreds of millions of dollars in investment by the state and federal governments along with progressive policies always focused on bringing more jobs, safer more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities to every resident of Rochester."
"...Mr. Sheppard's candidacy for Mayor, after serving only one year as a County Legislator without any results, is offensive to the people of Rochester."
In response to statements from supporters of Warren and Barnhart, Sheppard's campaign released this statement:
“They chose to throw everything but the kitchen sink at James Sheppard today,” the Sheppard campaign responded. “As though taking a lesson from the National Republican playbook, their allegations were filled with lies, unfounded assertions and unsubstantiated exaggeration. All the while making personal attacks while ignoring the issues”.