This post has been corrected.
Former Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard will run for Monroe County Legislature with the backing of the 23rd Legislative District Democratic Committee. The committee picked Sheppard over city Director of Planning and Zoning Mitch Rowe last night by a vote of 56 to 13.
In an e-mail, Rowe says that he will take a few days to decide whether he will primary Sheppard, or abandon his campaign. The 23rd District seat is currently held by Democrat Paul Haney, who is termed-out this year.
Three east-side city LD committees met last night to vote on endorsements in City Council and County Legislature races. The Sheppard-Rowe race was undoubtedly one of the most closely watched contests.
The whole night had an east-side Dems vs. City Hall air. Some of the committee leaders privately portrayed Rowe as Mayor Lovely Warren's candidate. But Rowe said that he is no more Warren's candidate than he was former Mayor Bill Johnson's candidate when Rowe worked for that administration and served in the County Legislature (he held a seat from 2002 to 2005).
"The decision I made to present myself as a candidate was mine and mine alone," Rowe said.
Rowe was nominated by his mother, City Council member Carolee Conklin, who took a couple of hard swings at Sheppard. (The nomination was seconded by City Council President Loretta Scott.)
Conklin said that Rowe registered to vote when he was 18 and never missed an election, but that Sheppard registered at age 58 and has voted only once. But said Sheppard said later that he registered when he was 18 in Livingston County, but he didn't vote when he was working as a police officer because he wanted to keep politics out of his job.
Generally, Conklin talked up Rowe's experience as a longtime Democratic activist and experienced government worker. And Rowe emphasized the same points: he worked on Louise Slaughter's first Congressional campaign in 1986, on Tom Frey's county executive campaign, and on Joe Morelle's winning 1990 Assembly campaign. And as Seneca County's former manager, Rowe said that he knows how to balance a county budget.
Sheppard was nominated by Haney, and the nomination was seconded by committee member Pattie McCarthy. Haney said that Sheppard has an outstanding record from his time as police chief and through his work with youth with organizations such as the Center for Youth.
In his remarks, Sheppard said that he's watched the county accumulate deficits and deal with ethical problems, and that one of his priorities would be oversight of the administration. He also said that he'd push for Democratic ideals of equality and fairness for women and LGBTQ people, and that he would support state initiatives to raise the minimum wage and increase the age of criminal responsibility.
"When I left the police department, my service wasn't done," Sheppard said.