CSEA endorsed Democratic candidates for Monroe County Legislature top left to right: Blankley, Burgess, Simmons. Bottom left to right: Frazier, Hoffman and Barnhart.

Monroe County — On election eve, Monroe County Democratic voters in several legislative districts effectively unseated key members of the breakaway Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, which formed a pact with Legislature Republicans while sparring with other Democratic Caucus members.

CSEA targeted six races in the primary election, successfully winning all five of them except one, which is still too close to call.

CSEA Monroe County Local President Jim D’Amico said after the election, “The incumbents in the districts we focused on were more concerned with personal outcomes rather than representing the best interests of their constituents. They were putting politics before the people — and above the needs of our working families — and voters decidedly rejected them on election day.”

Western Region President Steve Healy did not mince his words when he learned of the primary election results for the Monroe County Legislature.

Healy said, “For years, the Republican majority in the Monroe County Legislature has gone out of their way to make it very difficult for our CSEA members to deliver the high quality of services our community has come to know, love and respect. It didn’t help much that a few so-called Democratic legislators started to vote with Republicans stalling worker friendly initiatives proposed by County Executive Bello. Whether it’s rejecting our past labor agreements, not advancing or tabling worker friendly policy or dismissing our phone calls just to talk, our CSEA members and the voters of Monroe County ultimately decided enough is enough. Ousting these Democratic outliers and electing pro-worker legislators is a giant step forward for our union.”

D’Amico says CSEA members worked especially hard on these targeted races, attending fundraisers, knocking on doors and making phone calls to fellow coworkers.

Here is a snapshot of Tuesday’s vote, according to unofficial results from the Monroe County Board of Elections:

In the 21st Legislative District, CSEA endorsed incumbent Legislator Rachel Barnhart easily won her election against Wanda Ridgeway, a Mayor Warren protégé. Barnhart garnered 64 percent of the vote while Ridgeway received 36 percent.

Mercedes Vazquez Simmons, a CSEA backed candidate beat Vince Felder, the incumbent legislator for the 22nd District. Felder was an aide to the late Assemblymember David Gantt. Felder was also aligned with the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus and voted with Republicans on a regular basis.

Carolyn Hoffman came out on top in a three-way race for the 25th Legislative District seat. She yielded 51 percent of the vote, while Kenneth Muhammad, the party’s designated candidate, received roughly 21 percent of the vote. Dorian Hall received about 27 percent.  Hall will appear on the November ballot via the Working Families Party line.

Frank Keophetlasy, a former Gantt aide who now works in constituent services at City Hall, lost the 28th Legislative District race to CSEA backed 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 percent of the vote to Keophetlasy’s 38 percent.

In the 29th Legislative District, voters overwhelmingly delivered a knockout blow to incumbent Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, who faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. His challenger, union activist and social worker William Burgess, received 67 percent of the vote. Burgess, who was also endorsed by CSEA, carries the Working Families Party line and will face no challenger in the November general election.

The 24th Legislative District contest remains too close to call. Albert Blankley, who was endorsed by CSEA and was the county Democratic Party’s designated candidate, and challenger Rajesh Barnabas, each pulled in close to 50 percent of the vote. Absentee ballots will likely determine the winner. On election eve, only 22 votes separated the candidates.

-Ove Overmyer

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About Author

Ove Overmyer is an award winning photojournalist and writer who has promoted the virtue of working people and the value of public service throughout his career. His work has been published by many well-respected international media outlets, including PBS Moyers & Co., Steward Update UCS Worker Institute Cornell ILR, CBS News, The Weather Channel, SCI-FY Channel, Associated Press and LOGO-TV. Before joining the CSEA Communications Department staff in 2015, Overmyer was a CSEA member employed by the City of Rochester and an officer of the union for more than 18 years. He covers a 14 county area of Western New York and lives in Rochester, NY.

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