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Mayor’s replacement still up in the air

GOP ‘sitting on the sidelines’ for City Council vote

The Rochester City Council is expected to vote this month on whether it will appoint a temporary mayor or hold a special election this spring.

There has been some debate within the City Council on how to handle the situation with Mayor Robert Duffy stepping down Jan. 1.

Deputy Mayor Thomas Richards announced his intentions to run for mayor last week as a Democrat. Republican leaders, however, say they don’t yet have a candidate and will wait to see what happens with the expected City Council vote Dec. 14.
City Council has 30 days after Duffy’s resignation to appoint a mayor who would serve until the next general election in November. If the City Council makes an appointment and a general election were held, a September primary would be required. The council’s other option would be to hold a special election within 90 days, putting it in March. The winner of the special election would finish the three remaining years of Duffy’s term. If the city takes no action within 30 days, a special election will be held.

Monroe County Republican Committee Chairman Bill Reilich said his party has not made final plans for a candidate, or even if it will endorse one. He did say, however, there have been candidates that have shown interest but would not say who.

The  GOP’s strategy will be based on how the City Council votes.

“We’re sitting on the sidelines until that’s known,” he said, though would not comment on whether he’d prefer a general or special election. “I don’t want to influence their process, either in a negative or a positive way.”

Reilich did say there would be strong spill-over from last month’s elections if there was a special election in the spring, since Republicans fared very well in elections across the nation.

“There’s momentum on our side. There’s enough momentum, I think, where we’ll continue that for at least two years,” he said. “People are not happy with the one party, both in Washington and Albany. When they see the momentum change, and see the policies change, that will continue to propel the Republicans.”

He said there is some advantage to the special election because of a short campaign period and the candidate would get the three remaining years of Duffy’s term. However, in a city like Rochester — where Democrats have held a strong reign for many years — it doesn’t allow voters to get to know the candidate.

The general election, along with a primary, is more work, but it would give GOP leaders more time for strategy and a four-year term.

“I think there’s pros and cons with each,” he said.

He said not having a candidate could be another option, depending on the amount of money needed, resources required, and the voting polls.

“It’s not just as simple as you want to run because you think you’re special, here’s a million dollars, go have fun,” Reilich said. “The reality is, we assess all of our races. In certain areas, we may be more involved than others.”

The county GOP has been putting a long-term plan in place to get in touch with city voters, he said. Each summer for the past three years, the GOP has held picnics in the city with local and state elected officials and more than 600 people have attended each time.

“When you’re so far removed, as we have been without an electing a Republican city council member or a mayor for so long, people haven’t had a lot of chances to be around [us],” Reilich said.

Richards said at his press conference this week he prefers a special election and would not accept an appointment as interim mayor after Duffy steps down.

City Council President Lovely A. Warren has said she supports a special election, but does not know which way the City Council is leaning. She said she’s not sure if the council can vote before the 30 days are up, or make a decision after.

“I haven’t polled everyone,” she said. “I don’t know if we have to wait the 30 days, or if we can vote before that if we know what we want to do.”

Richards, who was appointed deputy mayor last month, is still acting as corporation counsel, a position in which he oversees large projects, like the new PAETEC corporate headquarters in downtown. He’s handled other large projects as well, such as the demolition of Midtown Plaza and the sale of the high-speed ferry.

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