Democratic voters seem to have had enough of the power struggle that’s been playing out between two factions of their party in the County Legislature.
On Tuesday, voters in several legislative districts effectively unseated key members of the breakaway Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, which has formed an alliance with Legislature Republicans amidst a feud with members of the long-standing Democratic Caucus.
"Tonight’s results are clear: Democratic voters throughout Rochester are sick of the political gamesmanship of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, and of their continued support of the County Legislature’s Republican majority," Monroe County Democratic Committee Chair Zach King said in a prepared statement. "Democratic voters clearly believe these particular representatives were putting politics above the people — and above the needs of their districts — and resoundingly rejected these so-called Democrats who consistently caucus with Republicans."
The primary results won’t change the balance of power in the Legislature; that can only be decided by voters in November. But they will shape its makeup and its dynamics if Democrats are able to retain the seats they have. Two members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus were ousted by challengers, as was an ally of the caucus.
Here’s how Tuesday’s contests played out, according to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections:
- In the 29th Legislative District, voters delivered an undeniable rebuke to incumbent Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, who faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. His challenger, social worker William Burgess, pulled in a commanding 67% of the vote and there aren’t enough outstanding absentee ballots to secure a victory for Flagler-Mitchell. Burgess also carries the Working Families Party line, but Flagler-Mitchell is not a designated candidate for any other party. Burgess will have no challenger in the November general election.
- Mercedes Vazquez Simmons, a Working Families Party-backed Democrat, bested Vince Felder, the incumbent legislator for the 22nd District and a former aide to the late Assemblymember David Gantt, with 67% of the vote. Felder claims the title of Democratic Minority Leader, even though the Democratic Caucus voted to oust him as leader and put Legislator Yversha Roman in the position. Felder has aligned himself with the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, though he is not an official member. It’s unlikely that outstanding absentee ballots will tip the race in his favor.
- Frank Keophetlasy, a former Gantt aide who now works in constituent services at City Hall, lost the 28th Legislative District race to challenger Ricky Frazier, a volunteer coordinator for the Rochester City School District and minister at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church. Frazier, who will also carry the Working Families Party line in the general election, received 62% of the vote to Keophetlasy’s 38%.
- In the 21st Legislative District, incumbent Legislator Rachel Barnhart easily fended off a challenge from Wanda Ridgeway, the executive director of Rise Up Rochester, an anti-violence program that helps crime victims and families of homicide victims. Barnhart pulled in 64% of the vote while Ridgeway received 36%.
- Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman prevailed in a three-way race for the 25th Legislative District seat. She pulled in 51% of the vote, while Kenneth Muhammad, the party’s designated candidate, received roughly 21% and neighborhood activist Dorian Hall received about 27%. Hall will appear on the November ballot via the Working Families Party line.
- In the 14th Legislative District, which covers part of Brighton, Susan Hughes-Smith pulled in 87% of the vote, soundly beating challenger Nelson Lopatin. Hughes-Smith was the party’s endorsed candidate.
- The 24th Legislative District contest remains too close to call. Albert Blankley, who was the county Democratic Party’s designated candidate, and challenger Rajesh Barnabas, each pulled in close to 50% of the vote. Absentee ballots will likely determine the winner.