Black and Asian Caucus defeats tilt balance in the Monroe County Legislature

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The balance of power has shifted when it comes to the Black and Asian Caucus in the Monroe County Legislature after three sitting members of the group lost primary races Tuesday.

The caucus was formed last summer and county legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-29) said it was to create a legislative body that would focus more on the needs of urban residents. He, along with others of the caucus — including legislators Sabrina LaMar (D-27), Frank Keophetlasy (D-28), and Calvin Lee (D-25) — said they felt other Democrats on the legislature were not paying enough attention to the needs of the people in their districts.

But the caucus took a hit Tuesday as Flagler-Mitchell, and Keophetlasy both lost their primary races, as did Vince Felder (D-22), who isn’t an officially recognized member of the caucus, but has been known to vote in line with the group. LaMar did not face a primary challenger.

Flagler-Mitchell lost to William Burgess, Felder lost to Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons, and Keophetlasy lost to Ricky Frazier.

“It’s another day. I’m active in this community,” Vazquez-Simmons said. “I have a commitment, I’ve always had a commitment; my mother being a civil rights activist, born and raised in this community, it’s just continuing the work.”

“First of all, I want to link with the community because with what’s going on, with everything’s that happening in our community, I think if we sit down and listen to the community and their concerns, we’ll give the community a chance to come up with some of the solutions that will be more effective,” Burgess said.

The Black and Asian Caucus worked with the Republican majority on the legislature to create a “20-seat, veto-proof, super-majority” that, according to legislature president Joe Carbone (R-16), “neutered” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

With Tuesday’s results, the veto-proof super-majority is at risk of falling below the 20-seat threshold required, pending the results of November’s general election.

A statement Wednesday from the Black and Asian Caucus:

“The Black and Asian Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature is disappointed in the results of Tuesday’s primary elections but we are proud of the work we have been able to do over the last year and a half. We created the Caucus as a way to amplify the voices of our constituents that had been underserved and ignored for too long. We were able to achieve feats such as being the leading voices for the creation of the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, creating a fund for indigent burials for families who would otherwise struggle to pay their last respects to loved ones, paving the way for minority and women-owned businesses in Monroe County to have a seat at the table when County contracts are considered, and securing funding for minority-run fine arts organizations in the County struggling during the pandemic.

However, our work is not done. Over the last several months of the Legislature’s session, we will continue to champion for the people of our districts. We have been attacked and accused of using this Caucus as a political ploy to serve other politicians. This is false. We created the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus for the people of Rochester and believe that over the last nine months we have been better equipped to fulfill our pledges as elected officials and for the next six we will continue the fight.

We wish the best to the members of the Legislature’s next session and pray that Rochester and Monroe County will flourish. People’s lives can always be improved, and local government is the best place to do it. In the words of Rochester’s own Frederick Douglass, ‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress.'”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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