ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A fundraising letter sent to potential donors by Monroe County Legislature President Dr. Joe Carbone, a Republican, touts his creation of a coalition of Republican legislators and a group of breakaway Democrat legislators and calls it “our 20-seat, veto-proof, super-majority” that has “neutered the County Executive (Adam Bello, a Democrat).”
The Democrats who make up part of his coalition are members of the newly formed Black and Asian Democratic Caucus.
That caucus was created over a dust-up regarding the Board of Elections.
Vince Felder, a Democratic legislator, helped to orchestrate the split after a majority of Democrats in the legislature voted to remove him as minority leader – a vote Felder calls illegitimate.
Calling that vote an extension of the general disrespect shown by County Executive Adam Bello towards members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, Felder says the partnership with the GOP is indeed real and was made out of necessity.
“I was taught by David Gantt that you get votes where you can get votes and the Republicans hold a 15-vote majority and nothing gets passed without their approval,” Felder said. “So the County Executive is there and he’s chosen to take an antagonistic position and he hides behind other people when he does things that undermine the Black and Asian legislators.”
While the legislature has passed a vast majority of Bello’s initiatives including the most recent budget, the new coalition has overridden a Bello veto on occasion, like when he vetoed the creation of a $2.5 million discretionary fund for legislators.
John Baynes, a Democratic legislator, says Felder’s accusations of mistreatment aren’t warranted.
“When you claim that people’s refusal to accede to your wishes means you’ve been mistreated, you have the wrong idea of what governing is about,” Baynes says.
Baynes went on to say the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus members’ decision to partner with the GOP runs counter to what most Democratic voters want.
“This is a matter of power, money and control and not a matter of principle,” Baynes said.
But Carbone says Bello and his supporters are to blame for this situation.
“With the racial divide, the political divide we have I think it’s kind of telling that this administration forced this more or less,” Carbone said.
Felder did push back against Carbone’s claim that the coalition has “politically neutered” Bello saying he’s still willing to work with him.
“We are still Democrats,” Felder said. “I campaigned for Biden, I voted for Bello, I voted for Cuomo, I voted for Morelle. But in the legislature if he’s not going to be the partner I thought he would be when I endorsed him to be elected then I have to go out and get things passed.”
The Monroe County Democratic Committee also weighed in, taking aim at Carbone’s comments rather than Felder’s explanation.
“Republicans are on the ropes—they have lost important seats representing Monroe County at the state and local levels, a trend that will continue this year,” King went on. “This is just the latest of political power-grabbing stunts,” MCDC Chair Zach King said in a statement.
All legislative seats will be on the ballot this year and several members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus have primary challengers.