A former top aide to Mayor Lovely Warren on Tuesday threw his support behind her opponent in the upcoming Democratic primary election, Malik Evans.
Cedric Alexander, who served under Warren as deputy mayor for nearly two years at the outset of her current term, urged voters to cast a ballot for Evans, saying, “It is time to turn the page, time to hit the reset button.”
Alexander, who now lives in Florida, joined Evans, who was in Rochester, by video conference to deliver his endorsement.
Throughout his announcement, Alexander lauded Evans, a City Council member whom he has known since Evans was a high school student, as a “family man,” and someone of “character” and “moral fiber” who could restore confidence in city residents and Rochester’s reputation on a national stage.
“You have a great community there, a community that is still envied by many people,” Alexander said. “But we also have an image issue, and not just an image issue, but a problem there that is rooted in things that we see and hear about that is of grave concern.”
Although Alexander refrained from directly criticizing Warren, his endorsement represented a stark about-face from a high-ranking advisor to a mayor who built her meteoric rise in city politics on loyalty.
Warren began courting Alexander to join her administration upon first being elected as mayor in 2013, when she attempted to lure him from a prominent post as police chief of DeKalb County, Georgia. Alexander had spent a career in law enforcement in Rochester, reaching the position of acting chief of the Rochester Police Department in 2005 upon then-chief Robert Duffy departing to run for mayor.
Warren announced that he would be joining her administration as a deputy mayor in March 2017 in an announcement at City Hall that had no shortage of mutual-backslapping.
At the time, the mayor said Alexander “has a passion and heart for Rochester” and referred to his agreeing to join her team as “divine intervention.” He remarked that he was drawn to return to Rochester because “of what I saw this mayor doing,” reportedly took jabs at challengers for her job at the time, and referred to the upcoming election then as “the next four years.”
Alexander, a clinical psychologist who is a sometimes law enforcement analyst for CNN, left his post as deputy mayor in January 2019, saying he wanted to spend time with his aging mother in his native Florida. Upon his departure, the mayor called him “a consummate professional.”
His time at City Hall was not without controversy. He was dogged by questions of whether he was conducting outside business activities on city time. The city’s ethics board reviewed the complaints and found no violations.
In endorsing Evans, Alexander struck a decidedly different tone toward the mayor, although he deflected questions about her leadership style and his time at City Hall.
“This is not about disparaging anyone or their administration. This is not about denouncing anyone,” he said. “This is about moving forward.”
Without rehashing the cycle of headlines that put Rochester in the national spotlight over the last year — from the death of Daniel Prude to Warren’s indictment on campaign finance charges and the arrest of her husband for his alleged role in a cocaine ring — Alexander repeatedly referred to them in thinly veiled terms.
“In recent years, and in particular in the most recent year . . . we’ve seen a lack of leadership,” he said. “You’ve seen dismay. You’ve seen people angered about things that really could have been corrected and, quite frankly, there’s some things that happened in that community had I been there they would not have happened. I promise you that.”
Within hours of the endorsement, Warren had fired back at Evans and Alexander. In a video post on Facebook, she denounced Alexander as "the ultimate cop's cop," and said Evans was only interested in preserving the status quo.
Alexander first came to Rochester from Florida in 1997 to continue his studies in psychology at the University of Rochester. It was during that period that he met Evans, whom he described as recognizing at the time as “an up-and-comer.”
In accepting the endorsement, Evans was effusive in his gratitude and said that he would continue to lean on Alexander if he were elected mayor. Alexander said he would not return to Rochester to take a permanent role in an Evans administration, but said he would serve in a temporary, transitional post, if called upon.
Evans is facing off against Warren for the Democratic primary on June 22. He has the endorsement of the Working Families Party and has said that he will run for mayor through the fall regardless of the outcome of the primary, which tends to be a bellwether for the November election.
David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jeremy Moule, CITY's news editor, contributed to this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.