Of the five primaries for County Legislature seats --- two Democratic, one Republican, two Independence Party --- we selected the two we found most interesting and most highly contested, one city, one suburban, both Democratic. In both, the current legislators are retiring due to term limits.
In the 14th district, which covers most of Brighton and a small part of Henrietta, three candidates are seeking the seat currently held by Democrat Linda Garner Goldstein: Travis Heider, Mary Ellen Blanchard, and Nelson Lopatin. All three are liberal Democrats who know their district well. All would be strong advocates for their district. All three understand the challenges facing the county --- and the difficulty of being a Democrat in the Republican-dominated legislature.
Our choice: Travis Heider. Senior marketing director for the local American Diabetes Association, Heider is only 29, but he gained significant political experience as deputy chief of staff to former State Senator Rick Dollinger, a Democrat who found ways to be effective in the Republican-controlled Senate. That experience, plus Heider's clear understanding of county issues, earns our endorsement. Among Heider's top concerns: the county budget; the need to strengthen development in biotech, fuel-cell technology, and infotonics areas; and the need to develop and use renewable energy.
Mary Ellen Blanchard is an English teacher at Pittsford Mendon High School who has been endorsed by the Working Families Party. She has made a particular issue of opposing privatization of Monroe Community Hospital and the need to provide strong oversight of the county administration. She wants county government to be more active in reducing lead poisoning and believes the county's industrial development agency has been mismanaged.
Nelson Lopatin is the owner of an internet development company and has a background in accounting. His campaign has focused on the county budget, particularly the need for a multi-year approach to budgeting; stopping the flight of college graduates from the region; and Renaissance Square. He is concerned about where the county will find private investment for Renaissance Square and who will finance operating costs. He criticizes the county's industrial development agency for subsidizing the movement of businesses to the suburbs, and he wants government to provide help for landlords in lead-paint abatement.
In the city: too close to call
The Democratic primary in the 21st district is an interesting race in an interesting geographic area, one that, as candidate George Moses says, reflects the diversity of the city. The district includes poor neighborhoods, working-class neighborhoods, and expensive East Avenue homes. Moses and labor activist Carrie Andrews are seeking the seat being vacated by Democrat-turned-Republican Chris Wilmot.
Both are good candidates with their own strengths. Moses, community relations director of the North East Area Development organization, has less breadth and depth than Andrews but has been active in the district's poor and middle-income neighborhoods and has a clear understanding and deep concern about the needs of the city's poor and working poor. As county officials try to deal with budget challenges, he says, they're beginning to pit one part of the community against another: the poor. In his campaign, he focuses on the needs of families. He wants the poverty level for day care changed so that more families are eligible. And day care, he says, is both a service and an economic engine, providing income for providers.
Andrews, a labor-relations specialist for New York State United Teachers, has a strong understanding of county issues. Like Moses, she is concerned about the county's human-services budget cuts. She says she's concerned that the Brooks administration is continuing the Doyle administration's hostility toward the city, citing funding cuts for school nurses, library funding, and the problems in the Department of Human and Health Services. She says the county's incentive programs aren't doing what they were intended to do: foster industrial development. And she wants more accountability for those tax breaks, to insure that promised job growth is delivered.
Balancing Moses' familiarity with his district and Andrews' familiarity with the issues, we were unable to make a clear choice for an endorsement in this race.