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Clark has strong lead in 136th Assembly District race but outcome uncertain 

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
Justin Wilcox, Sarah Clark, and Nelson Lopatin, three candidates vying for the 136th Assembly District seat, will have to wait another week to find out who among them will get the Democratic line.  But going by the results Tuesday night, Clark has a good chance of prevailing.

With all polling sites in the district reporting, Clark had almost 65 percent of the 5,966 votes cast. Wilcox had almost 30 percent while Lopatin had pulled in over 5 percent.

click to enlarge Sarah Clark - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Sarah Clark
What wasn't clear Tuesday night was how many absentee ballots had been returned that could affect the outcome of the race; under state law, the Monroe County Board of Elections can't count the absentees until June 30. Even Clark wouldn't declare victory after the results came in.

"There are a lot of votes to be counted so I can't even wrap my head around what the absentees will look like and what this means," she said as the remaining results trickled in.

Clark and Wilcox will appear on the general election ballot regardless: Wilcox has the Independence Party line while Clark has the Working Families Party line.

The seat is currently vacant and a previously scheduled special election to fill it was canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The 136th District, which includes the towns of Brighton and Irondequoit as well as part of Rochester, has been anchored in Irondequoit since 1990, when Joe Morelle, now a member of Congress, was first elected to the seat. His successor, Jamie Romeo, was also from Irondequoit and during her short term in the position she kept the district offices in the town.

But during this year’s primary, none of the candidates were from Irondequoit. Wilcox and Lopatin live in Brighton while Clark lives in the city’s Maplewood neighborhood.

click to enlarge Justin Wilcox - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Justin Wilcox
Wilcox, 49, who is the party’s designated candidate, has served in the Monroe County Legislature since 2012. He worked as legislative director for Romeo before she resigned the Assembly seat to accept an appointment as county clerk. He also worked as legislative director for then-Assembly member Morelle and former state Senator Ted O’Brien.

On his website, Wilcox highlights his past work on issues ranging from government accountability to legislation banning the sale of vaping products to minors. It notes that recently, he worked with Republican Legislator Matthew Terp and County Executive Adam Bello to write and pass legislation creating a committee to develop a climate action plan for the county.

Clark, 45, has a long resume in government. She served in key regional staff positions for Senator Hillary Clinton and, after Senator Kirsten Gillibrand assumed the seat in 2009, became Gillibrand’s deputy state director. Clark now works as the senator’s acting state director. In college, she interned at City Hall under Mayor Bill Johnson and in 2005 she was part of former Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy’s transition team. She also serves on several non-profit committees.

On her website, Clark is clear about her positions on specific issues. For example, she believes cannabis should be legalized and efforts made “to reverse the disproportionate impact prohibition has had on communities of color,” and she supports the New York Health Act, a bill that would establish a single-payer health care system in the state. She also notes that she wants to expand and protect women’s reproductive rights, paid family leave,affordable child care, and anti-sexual harassment and discrimination laws.

Lopatin, 72, is serving his seventh year as president of the Brighton Chamber of Commerce and has worked for 25 years as an internet consultant and for 20 years in hotel management and development.
click to enlarge Nelson Lopatin - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Nelson Lopatin

On his website, Lopatin makes clear that school funding is his top issue. He wants the state to more equitably fund Rochester, Brighton, and Irondequoit schools. He also supports the New York Health Act, term limits for state legislators, no-excuse absentee ballots, women’s reproductive rights, paid family leave, affordable child care, anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination laws, and stronger equal pay laws.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

WXXI News reporter James Brown contributed to this story.

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