Let’s borrow a euphemism from the sports world and call 2015 a “rebuilding” year for local Democrats. The Democratic brand is in trouble everywhere, but the local scene is particularly alarming.
The latest development is the defection of County DA Sandra Doorley
– formerly one of the Dems’ brightest stars. The Democrats I've talked to since Doorley’s announcement say that they had no idea that a switch was in the works, and they’re taking it like a gut punch.
Doorley’s “explanation” for her enrollment change is unsatisfying — something about being more philosophically aligned with the GOP and hey, it’s really not a big deal anyway. Well, then, why hold a press conference, surrounded by GOP brass? Clearly, someone thinks it’s a big deal.
The rumor mill has its own theories, naturally: that the GOP threatened to run a big name against Doorley unless she became a Republican; that the career-minded Doorley didn’t see much of a future with the fractured Dems; or that Doorley craftily played both parties to win — and give herself the best shot at keeping — the DA’s office.
Meanwhile, the party’s standard-bearer, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, continues to struggle to overcome the gaffes and missteps of her rookie year. It’s difficult, though, to separate those who disagree with Warren's performance in office from those who relish and hype every perceived slip-up just because they don’t like her. (And let’s be clear, booing the mayor at the Pepsi halftime show
, as people appear to have done, was just plain tacky.)
And now we've got Molly Clifford
in the mix. Clifford, a well-known local figure, is running for the Northwest District seat on City Council. Clifford is free to run for whatever office she chooses, of course, but her reappearance is bound to tick some people off. Clifford helped engineer a late push to keep Tom Richards in the mayor’s office after Warren won the primary — a move that Warren and her supporters saw as divisive and disloyal.
Though Clifford says that her campaign is about the people of the Northwest District and not about Warren, she’s too smart to really believe that her race will happen in a bubble. At the very least it’s safe to say that her campaign will not be a balm on the party's wounds.
New Democratic Committee Leader Dave Garretson has his work cut out for him. And the pressure is on — all 29 seats in the County Legislature are up this year, as is the county executive’s office, as well as seats on City Council and the Rochester school board.