The 29th Legislative District in Northeast Rochester may be the epicenter of this year's primary elections. The district has more Democratic primaries than any other part of Monroe County. Primary elections will be held on Tuesday, September 9.
There's a three-way City Court contest between William Gargan, Michael Lopez, and Leticia Astacio in the 29th. (Gargan has the party's endorsement.) And the district is caught up in a wave of races for ground-level Democratic committee seats.
Approximately 260 committee seats are in play across the 29th, 21th, 26th, and 28th Legislative Districts, which are in Northeast and Northwest Rochester.
The committee primaries are arcane, but crucial for the Democratic Party. The committee members vote on candidate endorsements and on September 23, they'll vote for the next party chair. Joe Morelle, the current chair, isn't seeking re-election.
Some committee leaders say that the primaries are the result of a power struggle between competing factions of Democrats; they liken the contests to a civil war.
The 29th also has a County Legislature contest. Incumbent County Legislator Leslie Rivera, a city school teacher who was appointed to fill a vacancy earlier this year, faces a challenge from Ernest Flagler, a city firefighter who has previously run for Rochester school board. Rivera has the party's endorsement.
Flagler says that his decision to run precedes Rivera. Rivera's predecessor, Mike Patterson, had resigned from the Lej to take a City Council seat. Flagler says that Patterson asked him to take his Lej seat, but party leaders passed him over.
Flagler says that as a legislator he'd focus on public safety, including an expansion of sheriff's office, state police, and Rochester police patrols in the 29th district. He says he'd also like to see more youth development programs for children in families receiving public assistance.
One of Rivera's focuses is child care services; Legislature Democrats and children's advocates have repeatedly asked the county to increase funding for child day care subsidies. And recently, Rivera submitted legislation that would have initiated a parking study at the county Department of Human Services building (the legislation did not pass).
There are two Republican primaries in the suburbs — one on the west side and one on the east side.
In the 62nd State Senate District, the party's endorsed candidate, North Tonawanda Mayor Robert Ortt, faces a challenge from Gia Arnold, a conservative activist. The district starts in Niagara Falls but includes the towns of Sweden and Ogden. George Maziarz, who's held the seat for 19 years, is not seeking re-election.
Sitting State Assembly member Mark Johns faces a primary challenge from Penfield resident Calvin Frelier in the 135th Assembly District. The district covers Webster, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, and East Rochester.
Frelier says his emphasis is on getting voters more involved with the primary system and in selecting candidates. No Democrat is running for the Assembly seat, so that makes this primary even more important, he says.