Monroe County Democrats held their convention Thursday night.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren got the party's endorsement on the first ballot, but the battle to secure the nomination isn't over yet. Warren is expected to face a September primary from former Monroe County legislator and city police chief James Sheppard and former TV journalist Rachel Barnhart.
The local Democratic Party has seen divisions within the committee in recent years, and Warren said in her remarks that Democrats need to unite to defend values now being challenged in Washington.
As far as the local factions within the party are concerned, Warren says she's willing to take a leadership role, but she can't do it alone.
“I’m willing to sit at a table and to work on what we need to work on, but you can’t move forward by yourself, you have to have people who want to come with you; you can’t lead people who don’t want to follow and so my goal is to work to build bridges and to reconcile our differences," Warren said.
Barnhart released a statement saying it’s important for voters to have a choice in the mayoral election, and she says voters “will be able to choose new ideas or no ideas, positive change or status quo and the interests of residents or the interests of corporations.”
There was a second ballot to determine one of the at-large City Council seat endorsements. That went to Matt Juda, and there was controversy earlier in the week when former Monroe County Legislator William Lightfoot, who is also seeking a City Council seat, made reference to Juda, who is gay, when Lightfoot asked if it would be reverse discrimination to anybody who chooses not to live that lifestyle.
That comment brought a strong response from Councilman Matt Haag, who is also gay, and is not running for re-election, chiding Lightfoot for claiming that being gay is a lifestyle choice.
Lightfoot says he has apologized, and says he was mainly upset with the process.
“My thing is if a person is offended, you go to that person, and you apologize, or these persons, and I did that, so if they want to continue to fuel that, that’s on them. I thought we’re supposed to be about unification not about trying to divide the community,” Lightfoot told WXXI News.
When WXXI News asked Juda about how he feels about Lightfoot's initial comments, he said he did speak with Lightfoot Thursday night.
“I think there are people in the community who have already spoken to that issue and I’ve received an apology from Willie and I did accept that today.”
Juda says he will be focused on developing a stronger city for the LGBT community and representing the city overall. Lightfoot does plan to run a primary.
Other Democratic City Council candidates who were endorsed include Loretta Scott, Dana Miller, Jackie Ortiz and Malik Evans.
There are three city school board seats open, and the Democratic endorsements went to Van White, Beatriz LeBron and Natalie Sheppard. Cynthia Elliott, current board vice president, did not get the party endorsement.
Other candidates endorsed by the county Democrats included Todd Baxter for sheriff, Howard Maffucci for the county legislative 10th district seat, and Chuck Crimi for City Court judge.