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POLITICS: Meet your pols

A guide to your elected representatives


Monroe County has a vibrant political scene, but it also has a pronounced party divide.

Democrats control the governments in the city and a couple of inner-ring suburbs, while Republicans hold the power in most of the towns. County-wide, there's a sometimes fragile balance of power, which often makes the community a frequent battleground in state contests, particularly elections for State Senate seats. For casual observers of county politics and newcomers to the Rochester area, there are some political figures worth watching. Here's a quick primer on some of them.

Monroe County Republican Party Chair Bill Reilich

Reilich's full-time gig is as supervisor of the town of Greece, a job he started this year. Prior to that, he served as a state Assembly member for 10 years. Under Reilich, the county Republican Party continues to dominate many suburban elections, but rarely fields candidates in city races.

Monroe County Democratic Committee Chair Joe Morelle

Morelle, like Reilich, holds a couple of key political jobs. He's the state Assembly's majority leader, a position he was appointed to last year after serving as an Assembly member for 23 years. Under Morelle, the county Democratic Party has kept a lock on city government and has made some inroads into suburban governments.

County Executive Maggie Brooks

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren - FILE PHOTO
  • Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren

Brooks has been a mainstay in Monroe County politics since the late 1990's. She's been county executive for 10 years and cites keeping the county property tax rate flat as her biggest accomplishment. But Brooks' years as county executive have included several big controversies and scandals, from which she has emerged unscathed so far.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren

Warren made a name for herself as City Council president, but she made Rochester history when she was elected as mayor in November; she's the first woman to ever hold the position. She had a rocky start to the job, but early controversies have quieted down and now she's digging into bigger issues like police services and downtown development.

Assembly member David Gantt

Assembly Member David Gantt - FILE PHOTO
  • Assembly Member David Gantt

Gantt is a Rochester Democrat who has represented the same Assembly district since 1983. He's controversial at times, and has been known to fight hard against his opponents. But he's also known as a champion for the poor and other vulnerable populations, a reputation he started earning as a community advocate and county legislator. Gantt also has some influence in Albany because he chairs the Assembly's Transportation Committee.

Assembly member Bill Nojay

Nojay is a proud conservative who hosts a daily AM radio program on WYSL. He's vocal on issues of government spending, taxes, and gun rights, and is actively encouraging Donald Trump to run for governor. He's also a former Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority commissioner and was a driving force behind the bus terminal plan that morphed into the Renaissance Square proposal.

Assembly member Harry Bronson

Bronson, a Democrat, was first elected to the state Assembly in 2010, after serving in the Monroe County Legislature for five years. He's also a long-time LGBT activist and co-owner of Equal Grounds Coffee House. As a state legislator, Bronson has supported anti-discrimination measures, but he's also focused on economic development and education.

State Senator Joe Robach

State Senator Joe Robach - FILE PHOTO
  • State Senator Joe Robach

Robach represents a heavily Democratic district in the state Senate, but he's a Republican. He's frequently present at all kind of public events, from major announcements at prominent institutions to ribbon cuttings at local small businesses. He often says he's pleased at the amount of state funding he's been able to direct to his district and community.

State Senator Ted O'Brien

O'Brien, a Democrat, has worn a few hats over the years. At one point, he was chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, and he's also a former county legislator. In 2012, he won the Senate seat formerly held by Republican Jim Alesi, a district long targeted by local and state Democratic leaders.

House Representative Louise Slaughter

Slaughter has served in Congress since the late 1980's and is currently the top Democrat on the House's powerful Rules Committee. An unabashed liberal, she's championed health care reform, an end to lopsided trade agreements, women's reproductive rights, and changes in the way the military handles sexual assault. But her critics say she's entrenched in a Washington culture that no longer works for the people.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. - FILE PHOTO
  • U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Schumer holds more press conferences in Rochester than many local elected officials. He's well known for using media publicity as a bludgeon, a way to use public opinion to force an outcome he wants. But it has worked for him on a slew of issues, from stopping a proposed cable internet data cap to advancing a trade policy that benefited Hickey Freeman, a local suit manufacturer.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand, a Democrat, is New York's junior senator, and she's taken a couple of pages from Schumer's playbook. She, too, is not shy about using the media to call attention to issues. Currently, she's making a major push in support of legislation addressing pervasive problems of sexual abuse in the military.

Contact Information

Mayor Lovely Warren
Spokesperson, Christine Christopher, 428-7406

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks. - FILE PHOTO
  • Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.

Joe Morelle

Maggie Brooks
Spokesperson, Justin Feasel, 753-1080

Louise Slaughter
District office, 232-4850

Bill Nojay

Joe Robach

Ted O'Brien

Chuck Schumer
Rochester office, 263-5866

Kirsten Gillibrand
Rochester office, 263-6250

Harry Bronson

Bill Reilich

In This Guide...

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  • CITY/COUNTY: Know your neighborhoods

    Introductions to Monroe Avenue, Mendon, 19th Ward, and other Rochester area communities
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  • LIVING: Getting settled

    New to town or coming home? Some things to consider
    Up until the 1960's, Rochester's economy was dynamic and growing, and the area's major employers of the day often needed to build their management teams with outside talent. Eastman Kodak, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb, and several other firms were industrial giants, and some offered prospective executives handsome relocation packages.

  • DINING: The happiest of hours

    Six Rochester happy hours worth checking out
    Whether you've just had a rough day at the office, need a quick bite before dinner, or want to avoid the late-night crowds at the bar, happy hours are a great way to enjoy local food and drink at a discount. They are the perfect chance to try something new, or get that second drink.

  • ART: Gems from Rochester's art museums

    Connections with collections
    When people visit a museum or gallery, they are typically drawn in to view a specific exhibition, and perhaps linger a while to wander the permanent collection as well. But since most cultural institutions have neither the space nor the funds to present their entire collections to the public at all times, many objects reside in storage, and a percentage of the collection is fairly unknown.

  • MUSIC: Sing, sing a song

    Rochester is a karaoke hotbed
    Its title derived from mashing up the Japanese words "kara" (meaning empty) and "okesutora" (meaning orchestra), karaoke has been around for a long time. And some of its roots, believe it or not, are American.

  • THEATER: A theater town

    A look at some of Rochester's niche theatrical troupes
    Anyone who believes that theater is a dying art has not spent much time in Rochester; we have always offered a remarkably full range of theater, for consumption and for participation. To use a word theater people enjoy, the Rochester theater scene is very textured; there's a little of everything offered, and something for everybody to see, to try out for, or to get involved in.

  • MEDIA: The last bastions

    Where to find fading media in Rochester
    Now that Blockbuster has gone the way of the dodo, closing what remained of its stores at the start of this year, it seems the end is near for physical media. The fall of the former giant of home entertainment is just the latest reminder that the now omnipresent Kindles and Nooks, iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon Prime have had a profound effect.

  • HEALTH/WELLNESS: The Lotus Flower City

    The history and growth of Yoga in Rochester
    These days, you can't go anywhere without hearing about the newest yoga craze. Before the dawn of the Victoria's Secret yoga pants empire, though, things were a little bit different.

  • EVENTS: Mark your calendar

    Rochester's upcoming special events
    If there is one thing Rochester has an abundance of, it's festivals. Keeping track of all of them can be daunting, and we know that you wouldn't want to miss out, so we did the hard work for you.