Monroe County Legislature could go either way. Here are the races to watch. 

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With all 29 seats in the Monroe County Legislature up for grabs in November, voters have a chance to influence the makeup of a county government that has been plagued by infighting and bitter partisanship for the better part of 18 months.

The dysfunction began shortly after Adam Bello was elected in 2019 as the first Democratic county executive in 32 years, when Republican legislators, who hold a one-seat majority, tried to ram through a series of bills designed to strip the incoming executive of some of his powers.

In the ensuing year, Democratic legislators splintered over an intra-party disagreement about who to appoint as the party’s county elections commissioner. The fallout included the ouster of the minority leader and a breakaway bloc of Democrats who began voting with Republicans.

During the June primaries, Democratic voters effectively unseated four of the five breakaway members, thereby removing one source of friction in the Legislature.

Now, which party will control the chamber hangs in the balance.

There are several uncontested races, for both Democrats and Republicans, on this year’s general election ballot, with the most competitive and consequential races being in the suburbs.

CITY has identified six contests whose outcome may not only determine the balance of power but also illustrate political shifts occurring in some of Monroe County’s towns and villages.

5th District (Henrietta, Mendon, Pittsford, Rush)

click to enlarge Terry Daniele, left, and Richard Milne. - FILE PHOTOS
  • Terry Daniele, left, and Richard Milne.
Terry Daniele
Democrat, Working Families Party

Richard Milne
Republican, Conservative

When she ran for the Legislature in 2019, Democrat Terry Daniele came within 400 votes of defeating the Republican incumbent Karla Boyce. This year, Boyce is out on term limits — the second time she has been forced to leave after serving the 10-year maximum — and Daniele is facing popular Honeoye Falls Mayor Richard Milne.

Milne, a Republican who is well-liked in his village and held in high regard by other elected leaders locally and statewide, has been mayor since 2005 and spent two years as president of the New York Conference of Mayors.

Daniele, an American Sign Language interpreter with a private practice, has emphasized fiscal responsibility and boosting the local economy — helping small businesses, in particular — during her campaign. Milne has positioned himself as a bridge builder who wants to work with County Executive Adam Bello and legislators across party lines. His priorities include holding the tax rate flat or lowering it and supporting programs to strengthen county law enforcement.

8th District (Webster)

click to enlarge Matthew Terp, left, and Megan Thompson. - FILE PHOTO
  • Matthew Terp, left, and Megan Thompson.
Megan Thompson
Democrat, Working Families Party

Matthew Terp
Republican, Conservative

The contest between Republican Matthew Terp and Democrat Megan Thompson is a weird one.

The two faced off before, in 2019, when Terp defeated Thompson. He would be the incumbent candidate this time around had he not resigned from his seat on Aug. 11, citing health reasons.

It stands to reason that an incumbent who steps down in the middle of a term no longer wants his seat. But Terp’s resignation came too late under state Election Law to remove his name from the ballot.

That means if voters elect Terp again and he doesn’t want the seat, he would have to resign again after taking office, and the Legislature president would appoint someone to replace him. Legislature President Joe Carbone has identified Jennifer Wright, a Republican from Webster, to take his place.

But wait, there’s more!

Before stepping down, Terp posted on his campaign Facebook page that although he is struggling with long-haul symptoms of COVID-19, he would still like voters’ support.

Thompson has a simpler path forward, and the confusion around Terp’s candidacy coupled with the name recognition she’s built could work to her benefit.

9th District (Penfield)

click to enlarge Mel Callan, left, and Paul Dondorfer. - FILE PHOTOS
  • Mel Callan, left, and Paul Dondorfer.
Mel Callan
Democrat, Working Families Party

Paul Dondorfer
Republican, Conservative

Republican Paul Dondorfer is finishing up his first term in the Legislature facing a challenge from Mel Callan, an active Democrat who has run for office several times previously.

This race is worth watching because Penfield has been undergoing a political shift, with more residents registering as Democrats and voting for them. Democrats had a tiny edge during the 2019 elections, but now have an advantage that is a few hundred voters strong.

In the 9th Legislative District, the edge translates to enrolled Democrats outnumbering enrolled Republicans by about 60 voters. If Democrats can flip the seat, they’ll score a big win — it’s been under Republican control for over 20 years.

11th District (Fairport, Perinton)

click to enlarge Sean Delahanty, left, and Joshua Foldare. - FILE PHOTOS
  • Sean Delahanty, left, and Joshua Foldare.
Joshua Foladare
Democrat, Working Families Party

Sean Delehanty
Republican, Conservative

This contest is another rematch from a close 2019 race.

That year, Republican Sean Delehanty, who was first appointed to the 11th District seat in 2014 and was twice re-elected, defeated Democrat Josh Foladare  by roughly 240 votes, or about 3 percent of the ballots cast.

But Fairport and Perinton have become bluer over the past two years. Republicans had a slight enrollment advantage in 2019, but the numbers have since reversed.

Foladare’s platform addresses an issue of great importance to many residents of his district: Waste Management’s High Acres Landfill. He has pledged to work with other governments to address odors and other problems neighbors have with the facility, and to develop a plan to stop it from importing trash from New York City.

Delehanty plays up his extensive record of involvement with community organizations and his government experience. He was chief of staff for former Assemblymember Mark Johns, was an outreach manager at the county’s Youth Bureau and Office of the Aging, and a Fairport village trustee from 2011 to 2014.

16th District (Irondequoit)

click to enlarge Joe Carbone, left, and Dave Long. - FILE PHOTOS
  • Joe Carbone, left, and Dave Long.
Dave Long
Democrat, Working Families Party

Joe Carbone
Republican, Conservative

As the Legislature’s president, Republican Joe Carbone is a high-value target for Democrats, who selected West Irondequoit Board of Education President Dave Long to take him on.

Carbone is something of an anomaly — a Republican who represents a solidly Democratic district and has been reelected to his seat twice. But he has alienated Democratic legislators by blocking their bills and bringing the breakaway faction of their caucus into the Republican fold.

Long entered the contest with some name recognition after serving on the West Irondequoit school board for three years and as its president for the 2020-21 school year. On his webpage, he states that he “finds the divisiveness in the Legislature very troubling,” and that he wants to work with the Bello administration to improve county government.

18th District (East Rochester, Perinton)

click to enlarge John Baynes, left, and Stacie Whitbeck. - FILE PHOTOS
  • John Baynes, left, and Stacie Whitbeck.
John Baynes
Democrat, Working Families Party

Stacie Whitbeck
Republican, Conservative

When Democrat John Baynes was first elected in 2019, he unseated Republican Kara Halstead, who had been appointed to the seat earlier that year. In doing so, he flipped a seat that had long been held by the GOP.

Republican Stacie Whitbeck is trying to win it back. If she is successful, she could help her party retain control of the Legislature. But their district now leans Democratic, an advantage that, combined with his incumbency, likely gives Baynes an edge.

Whitbeck, a registered nurse who worked in health care for 25 years but who now works in real estate, emphasizes controlling county spending and working with Democrats when interests and ideas align. She’s said she wants to make sure police departments remain fully funded, but that in emotional and volatile situations, officers should have immediate access to a licensed mental health professional to help de-escalate the scene.

Baynes has been a teacher for 44 years. His priorities include ensuring Monroe Community College remains affordable and provides high-quality education, backing programs that support entrepreneurs and small businesses, working to build mutual respect between first responders and the people they serve, and integrating mental health services with law enforcement.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

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