Rochester’s City Council announced a special mayoral election for the spring, city officials said earlier this week.
The special election isn’t official yet, but there will be at least two candidates this spring, with Democrat Thomas Richards, the city’s deputy mayor and corporation counsel, the only candidate who has officially announced his intention to run. Green Party officials announced Wednesday that they will run a candidate, while Republican leaders have not yet announced a candidate.
The City Council met in a two-hour caucus Tuesday night, their last meeting of the year, and announced their support to hold a special election within 90 days after Mayor Robert Duffy resigns his post to become the state’s next lieutenant governor.
The council was faced with a few options in replacing Duffy. Within 30 days of Duffy’s resignation, the city council could have either appointed a mayor who would serve until the next general election in November, hold a special election, or do nothing.
If the City Council made an appointment, an election would be held in November, along with a September primary. Instead, a special election will be held in March and the winner will serve out the remaining three years of Duffy’s term. The special election must be scheduled for within 90 days of Duffy leaving office.
If the city takes no action within 30 days of Duffy leaving, a special election would be held.
The caucus decision, which is not set in stone, was very close on the all-Democratic council. Council President Lovely Warren, and Council members Dana Miller, Carolee Conklin, Adam McFadden and Loretta Scott all favored a special election. The remaining members favored an appointment.
Warren said she’s unsure of when an official vote on the matter will take place, but is glad to see a special election likely on the horizon.
“We have to find out when we can legally vote, or if we have 30 days to vote, or if we let the 30 days pass,” Warren said. “We believe that the public needed to know sooner [rather] than later in which direction the council was leaning.”
Scott Brant, co-chair of the Green Party of Monroe County, said the Green Party officially gained its ballot status on Monday because it had more than 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election in November. The Rochester charter requires each party to have a committee that chooses a candidate to run in the election, Brant said. The party has not picked a candidate, but expects to soon.
Brant said victory in the heavily Democratic city is not the point. He said it’s not known if the GOP will have a candidate, and if the Greens didn’t have a candidate, Richards would run uncontested.
“It’s just frustrating with uncontested elections and candidates who are chosen in back rooms,” Brant said. “I think our primary intention has always been the same, and that’s to bring to light the breakdown in the process and the corruption within the system. If this special election does happen, and it’s a candidate selected by the Duffy administration, it will show more light on our point.”
Brant said he preferred an appointed mayor because it would have required a primary and a general election.
“That’s the democratic process, and we’re firm believers, and I’m personally a firm believer, in the democratic process,” he said. “A candidate should be chosen by a vote, not behind closed doors or selected by a prior administration.”
Brant said he hopes the Republicans have a candidate as well, despite it possibly whittling away at his party’s votes.
“The Green Party of Monroe County is the people’s party. It’s the real choice. We’ll listen to what everyone has to say. If there are voters out there that typically vote Democrat simply not to vote for a Republican, they will in this election, and in the future, have a true third choice,” he said. “I would love to see every party that has valid access exercise their right to select a candidate based on their beliefs and what their voters vote for.”
Monroe County Republican Committee Chairman Bill Reilich said there are no set plans for a candidate in the city, which has a long history of electing democratic mayors. He said it is something the party is seriously considering and will be meeting with potential candidates between now and after the new year.
“It’s not whether we should or not, we want to make sure we have the right candidate if we are to run one,” Reilich said. “It’s all just in the beginning process.”
Reilich said the party has its eyes on the fall, when there are a large number of candidates up for election. In Monroe County there will be more than 100 positions up for grabs, including 29 county legislature seats, the county executive position, 19 town supervisor and council positions, and several judgeships. Because of the cycle of terms, the county legislature and county executive positions are only open at the same time every 20 years.
A special election, with a short campaign cycle of three months, may be too far an uphill climb. In other words, you have to known when to pick your battles.
“It’s the Super Bowl of local elections,” Reilich said. “There’s a lot that goes into the … process [of deciding whether to support a candidate]. … We’re giving it serious consideration. It’s something that we hope to have direction on in the beginning of the year.”
In the meantime, Richards will serve as interim mayor through the special election, and is the only candidate. He said at a press conference earlier this month that he prefers a special election and would not accept an appointment as interim mayor after Duffy steps down.
Richards been the city’s corporation counsel since Duffy took office in 2006.