In her expected bid for re-election this fall, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren will face at least two well-known Democratic primary challengers—James Sheppard and Rachel Barnhart—who appear to have stronger support in the business community.
Warren has not announced her intention to run but is widely expected to do so. In this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll, she was favored by only 13 percent, compared with 59 percent for Sheppard and 28 percent for Barnhart.
The mayor had more support among the 36 percent of respondents who reside or own a business in the city, but still ran a distant third.
Warren may not need the backing of the business community, however. In a Snap Poll conducted shortly before the September 2013 Democratic primary in which she challenged Mayor Thomas Richards, more than 90 percent of respondents favored Richards. But in the primary, Warren won with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Before her election as mayor, Warren had served on City Council since 2007, representing the Northeast District, and became Council president in January 2010. She also served as lead counsel and chief of staff to state Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester.
Sheppard, who announced his candidacy last month, joined the city police department in 1981 and rose in the ranks before leaving in 2008 to become director of safety and security for the Rochester City School District. In March 2010, he became director of the city’s Office of Public Integrity. He was appointed chief of police in November 2010 and retired from that post on Dec. 31, 2013, shortly before Warren was sworn in to office as mayor. He was elected to the Monroe County Legislature in 2015, representing the 23rd District in southeast Rochester and northeast Brighton.
Barnhart formally announced her candidacy Monday. She is a former TV reporter and anchor who unsuccessfully challenged Assemblyman Harry Bronson in a Democratic primary last September.
Nearly 850 readers participated in this week’s Snap Poll, which was conducted Feb. 6 and 7.
For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here. To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at rbj.net/dailyreport.asp.
As a longtime resident of the 19th Ward, I was cautiously optimistic when Mayor Warren was elected that City Hall would finally pay attention to the needs of the long-ignored west side. However, not only hasn’t there been any substantial changes, the Warren administration does not seem to be listening to the concerns of neighborhood groups. Both Rachel Barnhart and James Sheppard have their strengths. Rachel is bringing attention to the long-overdue need to focus on concentrating more jobs in the city, where they will be accessible to the people who need jobs the most. We can’t truly revitalize our city just by developing a few condos in the East End. Large swaths of the city have been devastated by the downsizing of Kodak and the departure of numerous employers, and this in turn has contributed to the deterioration of neighborhoods in southwest, northwest, and northeast Rochester. We have 40,000 fewer employed people in the region than we did in the 1990s, and we have to stop ignoring the severity of our economic downturn. We also need holistic approaches to revitalizing our neighborhoods, including renovating deteriorated buildings, reducing crime, effectively addressing code violations, and valuing our historic assets.
—DeWain Feller, Rochester
I don’t live in the city, but I do work there, visit often and live right over the border in Brighton. The top issue to me is economic development and (especially) reducing taxes. Right behind that is job training for the new economy. Downtown and the neighborhoods will not be truly revitalized without stronger economic development and access to good jobs. Just in the news Monday, another call center is closing, taking with it 180 jobs. The reason cited by the company is “economic.” This may be pessimistic, but that is most likely a shot at the high taxes here, considering the consolidation was to a lower-tax state like Georgia from a Pa.-based company. Why did they not move the Ga. location here? Hopefully some of our officials are asking and trying to understand.
I am a city resident, unlike many answering this survey. I need a mayor who will advocate for me as well as all residents—regardless of economic status or skin color. Sheppard knows all the people because he was on the street. He has the skills personality to bring people together.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
Suburban sprawl has happened. So many issues need to be fixed if downtown can be saved. Start with schools. The bloated administration continues to throw pasta at the walls and hopes it sticks. Make the schools safe for student and teachers. Make the neighborhoods safe, and conducive to a better life. Clean streets, clean lawns etc. Not until downtown has a better “perceived image” can any downtown revitalization happen. No more victimization, no more demonization of police. We can have a beautiful city once again.
If I were Maslow, I would say public safety is Rochester’s No. 1 priority on this list.
—B. Moser, Canandaigua
Rachel Barnhart represents a change for the better in Rochester Democratic candidates. Her leadership would be an excellent addition to the Rochester downtown area, and I fully endorse her efforts to improve education, lower property taxes on some residents, and improve internet access for all in the downtown region. Rochester has the potential to become a Western NY technology hub, but all the players need to get on the same page to make that happen. Rachel can do it. We need young, new and innovative leadership with a positive outlook and a connection with the working class—the defeat of Hillary Clinton proves that—and Rachel represents it.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed Inc.
Looking at the state of Rochester, No. 1 (is) economic development, creating jobs with living wages. With this, city residents will be able foster neighborhood development. With stronger neighborhoods the bond between citizens and police can address public safety. With better safety, Rochester can be a destination for entertainment and relaxation. This vision can’t be built by creating islands of privilege, but rather neighborhoods of community. Jobs are the key, and small businesses are the best way to reach and develop local abilities and talent. This is the Rochester I’d like to see.
—Daniel Herpst, Rochester
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