Monday, December 5, 2016

Mayor Barnhart? She's thinking about it

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 2:28 PM

click to enlarge Rachel Barnhart - PROVIDED PHOTO
  • Rachel Barnhart
Former WROC journalist Rachel Barnhart is exploring a run for mayor. Barnhart confirmed the latest grist from the Flour City rumor mill via Twitter direct message today. Mayor Lovely Warren’s term is up in 2017.

“Our team is exploring it,” Barnhart said. “I’m looking for the best opportunity to serve our community. I’m a lifelong city resident and graduate of city schools and I built my career around covering issues in the city that are important to residents.”

“Our city is struggling with poverty and a lack of economic opportunity. There are problems we need to solve. Right now, they’re not being adequately addressed.”

Barnhart is a former reporter and anchor for WROC-TV8 and waged an unsuccessful primary battle for State Assembly against fellow Democrat Harry Bronson in September. She may have lost, but she posted a respectable showing, coming up short by 537 votes. With that outcome, especially for a first-time candidate, it’s no wonder that Barnhart might be encouraged to try again.

But Barnhart’s possible run must have heads spinning at the Monroe County Democratic Committee.

The party’s refusal to unite behind Warren after her primary victory in the 2013 mayor’s race exacerbated a racial split in the party that still hasn’t healed; Warren appears to be operating independently of the MCDC and the MCDC is, by many accounts, struggling.

But you have to assume that the “party” – whatever that is these days – isn’t hot on Barnhart, either, for challenging Bronson. Barnhart also took local Democrats to task after her primary loss for not speaking out against what she called sexist attacks against her during her campaign. So Barnhart may have burned some bridges there.

So what are local Dems to do? I believe they’d choose Warren. (Although Warren hasn’t confirmed she’s running again.) It’s hard to believe the Dems would want to further damage the party by choosing, once again, not to back Warren – this time, as the sitting mayor.

And what happens if James Sheppard, Rochester’s former police chief and current county legislator, decides to throw his hat into the ring, as has long been rumored?

Interesting things are playing out in the background, too. Warren and lobbyist-political operative Robert Scott Gaddy are both protégés of State Assembly David Gantt, but Gaddy seems to be in Barnhart’s corner these days. Who would Gaddy support in a Barnhart-Warren primary battle? And what does that mean for Gantt?

Money may be an issue for Barnhart. She wasn’t able to compete with Bronson’s fund-raising during the primary campaign and pointed to that as a major reason for her defeat. Well, if she was intimated by Bronson’s war chest, she should be downright terrified of Warren’s. At last check, Warren had more than $250,000 socked away. (Compare that to the MCDC’s $29,000, and you see why Warren doesn’t have to make time for the party.)

One final observation: Barnhart’s confirmation arguably puts her book, “Broad, Casted” into a new context. Now it’s both a reflection on her State Assembly campaign and an opening salvo in a possible mayoral battle. In her chapter on Warren, Barnhart describes the mayor’s behavior at a 2014 press conference as “childish” and “undignified” and accuses her of arrogance. She also says that the mayor was “wildly unprepared to deal with the spotlight” after she was elected.

More by Christine Carrie Fien

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