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Our recommendations in key primary races

New York's political parties hold primary elections on September 13. And while Republicans have a primary for the 133rd state Assembly seat, and there are several third-party races (The Reform Party's for attorney general, the Independence Party's for Fairport Village mayor and trustee), the big Rochester-area races are in the Democratic Party.

We're endorsing in several key Democratic races.

For governor: no endorsement

What an abysmal choice.

On September 13, Democrats in one of the largest, bluest states in the country will choose their candidate for governor, and their options are an actor without significant experience in management or government and a vindictive bully whose close aides have been indicted.

We have enough concerns about both candidates that we're not endorsing either.

The state of the state's politics was on full display last week during the sole debate between the two. Instead of discussing how they'll deal with the numerous challenges facing New York, incumbent Andrew Cuomo and his challenger, Cynthia Nixon, spent the hour in a mud fight, insulting, interrupting, and snarling.

There are a lot of reasons for this country's distressingly low voter turnout, but behavior like that is enough to turn off the most conscientious citizen.

Still, New Yorkers who still believe they have a responsibility to show up at the polls have a decision to make.
There's no question that Cynthia Nixon is smart, concerned, and passionate. She's had lots of experience in political activism, and she's an eloquent spokesperson for liberal positions. But the New York governor runs a big organization. The job requires someone with strong management skills. In addition, to get anything done politically, the governor needs to know politics, from the inside.

President Trump is demonstrating daily the consequences of electing a celebrity who is a novice in government. We don't need one leading New York.

Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, has lots of experience, beginning with running the campaign and serving as an aide to his father. He knows how to get things done, and he's accomplished a lot – including in vitally important, progressive areas like gun control and marriage equality.

He's not as progressive as Nixon, and as she notes, on some issues he seems to have acted more out of political interest than personal commitment. But that's often how politics works. And if progressives want legislative action on issues like abortion rights and education, they're more likely to get it with Cuomo than Nixon. New York is a diverse state, and few things get done without both compromise and, yes, horse-trading.

That said, Cuomo has far too many negatives. He's a corporate-welfare master. He often talks like a progressive but sometimes acts like one only when pushed, and that's not leadership. Worse, there's plenty of reason to believe that he helped perpetuate the group of breakaway Democrats in the Senate who have joined Republicans in blocking essential progressive measures.

And while no criminal charges have been filed against him, key people very close to him are in big trouble. We may never know whether he knew what they were up to. But his inaction on ethics in government, and his handling of the group he set up to investigate ethics problems in state government – the Moreland Commission – speaks volumes. When the commission's work got uncomfortably close to big Cuomo donors, he shut it down.

The Democratic Party can hold up much better candidates than this, and New Yorkers deserve better.
If this race makes Democrats reluctant to vote at all, though, they should remember that there are also important down-ballot primaries. Our endorsements in some of those:

For Assembly: Jamie Romeo

Ask Jamie Romeo a question, and while the answer may sometimes be a direct "no," she’ll rarely just offer a "yes" without a well-thought-out explanation or at least a bit of insight – an illustration of the thought she gives to things. And it's an asset that helps make her the best choice among three candidates in the Democratic primary for the 136th Assembly District seat.

This race is an example of the current division between Democrats who want candidates with experience in politics and those who want new faces, people outside of the party establishment. Romeo is young, but she has a lot of experience in local Democratic politics. The other two candidates in this race are outsiders: Jaclyn Richard, the president of Rochester’s National Organization for Women chapter, and Todd Grady, a real estate professional.

Romeo's critics accuse her of being an insider. To us, her experience as a Monroe County Legislature staff member, as chief of staff for former State Senator Ted O’Brien, and as chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee adds to the argument in her favor.

Here’s a practical example of how she approaches issues and policy. Grady and Richard both support the New York Health Act, which would establish a single-payer health care plan in New York. Romeo does, too, and she vows to vote for it if she's elected. But she’s realistic: She knows the federal government may get in the way of implementing the plan, and she says the state needs to add provisions and protections about coverage, accessibility, and affordability to state law.

Richard's and Grady's priorities are good ones. They want an economic development system that’s more transparent and accountable. They want to protect women’s reproductive rights, and they support a crucial bill prohibiting discrimination based on people’s gender identity or the way they express gender. And they want changes to voting and campaign finance laws.

Romeo wants all of that, too. And she adds issues such as child care subsidies for working families, an issue she dealt with every year as a County Legislature staff member. Counties across New York are struggling with the issue, Romeo says, and it’s time for the state to step up and find a new approach.

Romeo, Richard, and Grady are running for the Assembly seat currently occupied Joe Morelle, who is running for Congress. Morelle has been second in command in the Assembly's leadership, and Rochester’s losing a representative with experience and clout. Romeo is knowledgeable, she’s quick on her feet, and she has a good working relationship with other elected officials and staff in Albany and locally.

That will help her be successful in Albany. And it will help the district she wants to serve.

For school board: LeBron and Funchess

On Thursday, September 13, Democratic voters will need to decide who should fill two available seats on the Rochester school board. They’ll have a choice of three candidates: Beatriz LeBron, Melanie Funchess, and the Rev. Judith Davis. Our recommendation: LeBron and Funchess.

Both women are already board members, and based on what we've observed, they’re doing a good job.
Davis would be new to the board, and in many elections, calls for change are reasonable. But the Rochester school district desperately needs a period of stability, especially as it relates to leadership. Last year’s election resulted in three new members out of a seven-person board.

LeBron is strong, outspoken, and not easily intimidated. As many people have noted, she’s not a go-along board member. She’s also the only Latina on the school board, a necessity since the city and the school district have large Latino populations that deserve representation.

Funchess is deeply embedded in the city’s mental health community and brings much-needed experience in the areas of special education and social-emotional care for Rochester’s students and families. She has worked directly with the county and the state to help children and families get the health services they need.

Funchess and LeBron are parents of children in city schools, and both women are actively engaged in their communities.

Davis is a smart, compassionate woman whose life is grounded in her faith. She is committed to improving student outcomes and eliminating institutional racism in city schools. If she's not elected this year, she’ll have another chance next year, when more school board seats will be up for election.