In some of Monroe County's towns, years pass without contested elections. There's no one reason why that happens. Sometimes the voters in a community may be predominantly loyal to one party. Sometimes they're just satisfied with the leaders they have (it does happen).
But this year, a dozen towns and one village have competitive races. In many cases, Democrats are trying to unseat Republicans, who control most of the suburban governments. Republicans in Irondequoit are trying to chip away at the all-Democratic town board and take back the supervisor's position.
Some of the town races reflect newly revived Democratic committees. Clarkson's Democratic Committee, for instance, was dormant for a few years until its leader, Tom Trapp, went out and recruited new members.
Now, Jerry Underwood is challenging Paul Kimball, a Republican who's served as town supervisor since 1984. Samantha Golden and Theresa Alano are mounting a challenge to incumbent Republican Town Board members Allan Hoy and Patrick Didas. And Peter Selig is running against incumbent Town Justice Ian Penders.
The Pittsford Democratic Committee has fielded town candidates over the years, but they haven't prevailed in that Republican stronghold. But Democrats have won some races in the village, and since last year the local committee has grown substantially.
This year, Stephanie Townsend and Kevin Beckford are running against Republican incumbents Mary Gehl Doyle and Jared Lusk. (Supervisor Bill Smith, a Republican, is unopposed).
Voters in parts of Pittsford, East Rochester, and Brighton can also vote in a contested County Legislature race. Democrat Howard Maffucci and Republican Jason Rosenberg are running for the 10th Legislative District seat; Republican Anthony Daniele has the seat now, but has to leave the Lej due to term limits. The GOP has a 19 to 10 majority in the chamber, and the race represents a chance for Dems to take a small bite out of that margin.
In other communities, Democrats are trying to build on gains they've already seen. Sweden Democrats got two candidates elected to the Town Board in 2015: Lori Skoog and Mary Rich. This year, Walter Borowiec and Susan Smith are running against Republicans Robert Muesebeck, a current Town Board member, and Patricia Hayles. One seat on the board is currently vacant, so two seats are up for grabs on November 7.
The Sweden race has become rather contentious, and during a recent Town Board meeting, some town Democrats – including Skoog and Rich – quarreled with Town Supervisor Robert Carges over a town-funded publication, Snapshots.
The fall edition includes an article honoring town employees who served in the military, accompanied by a picture of Muesebeck, a Vietnam veteran, and two other town workers. Democrats argue that the publication makes no mention of the other two Town Board members, Skoog and Rich. They argue that town money is being used to promote a Republican candidate.
The only candidate for the supervisor position is Republican Kevin Johnson. Carges, who is also a Republican, isn't seeking re-election.
In Irondequoit: Not too long ago, Republicans controlled Town Hall, but over the course of a couple of elections, they were all voted out of office. This year they hope to regain some seats.
Christopher Burns is challenging the current supervisor, Democrat David Seely, and Gregory Devlin and William Morse are running against Kimie Romeo and incumbent Town Board member Peter Wehner.
Seeley and Burns went head to head last November, and Seeley won by a large margin. But Burns and the rest of the Republican ticket – the I-TEAM, as they're calling themselves – say town officials aren't doing enough to bring down Irondequoit's taxes; the town has the highest rate in the county. They also say the town isn't doing enough to get public input on development projects and that that which has frustrated or angered residents.
Seeley, Romeo, and Wehner are campaigning on their experience in town government; at minimum, all of them have served on one Irondequoit board or another. And Seeley has emphasized some of the development that's happened along East Ridge Road during his time as supervisor and, previously, when he was on the Town Board. That includes the town's efforts to wrest Medley Centre away from an owner who let it languish. A new owner has started renovating the dead mall, which will now be called Skyview on the Ridge.
A full list of this year's races and candidates is on the Monroe County Board of Elections website.