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Slaughter’s impact on Rochester was deep 

[UPDATED 03/21/2018] Whoever fills the late Louise Slaughter’s seat in the House of Representatives won’t replace her. After four decades of public service she’s left behind an unquantifiable legacy that’s impacted many, if not all, Rochesterians.

Slaughter, who was 88, died last Friday morning following a fall in her Washington, D.C., residence earlier in the week. She had sustained a concussion. (Calling hours are 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, and 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 22. A service celebrating her life will be at 11 a.m. Friday, March 23, at Kodak Hall, Eastman Theatre. It's open to the public.)

The influential and indefatigable Democrat had recently kicked off her reelection campaign, which could have led to her 17th term in the House. Republicans already have a candidate for the seat, Dr. Jim Maxwell, and Slaughter's death leaves Democrats with a massive hole to fill in the crucial 2018 Congressional midterms.

Over the years, several names have been batted about as potential successors to Slaughter, but there is no heir apparent. Local Democrats are rightly mourning Slaughter’s death, so there hasn’t been any public discussion of who might running in her place.

Governor Andrew Cuomo can call a special election to fill the vacant seat, and the winner would hold the seat until the beginning of the next year. Cuomo hasn’t set any such election yet, but one possibility is that he’ll set it on the same day as the general election; that some continuity, provided the same candidate wins both elections.

Slaughter was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1986, but her public service and political career dates back even further. She got her first taste of  civic activism in her longtime home of Perinton, where she fought to preserve the beech-maple trees in Hart's Woods from commercial development.  She went on to serve in the County Legislature from 1976 to 1979 and in the New York State Assembly from 1982 to 1986. She also served as a regional representative for former governor Mario Cuomo from 1976 to 1978 when he was New York’s secretary of state and from 1979 to 1982 when he was lieutenant governor.

And over her years in the House she became wildly popular with Democrats and local voters generally. At election time, her Republican opponents couldn’t come close to beating her; the lone exception was Gates Supervisor Mark Assini, who lost by roughly 1,000 votes in their 2014 matchup.

She was a reliable ally for local higher-ed institutions, for whom she help secure vast amounts of grant and research funds. She was instrumental in getting the Department of Defense to base its AIM Photonics program in Rochester and pushed the Department of Energy to base its clean energy manufacturing institute at RIT. She also lobbied for companies in Rochester, such as Harris Corp., when they pursued large federal contracts.

Slaughter was a fierce supporter of federal arts funding, reproductive rights, funding to protect and clean up the Great Lakes and local waterways, and environmental protections. A former microbiologist, she pushed hard for federal laws limiting the use of antibiotics in livestock, which she said would help certain harmful bacteria from becoming antibiotic-resistant. She also co-authored the Violence Against Women Act; her office says the legislation helped reduce cases of domestic violence by 67 percent since 1994.

“To have met Louise Slaughter is to have known a force of nature. She was a relentless advocate for Western New York whose visionary leadership brought infrastructure upgrades, technology and research investments, and two federal manufacturing institutes to Rochester that will transform the local economy for generations to come. As the first chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, Louise blazed a path that many women continue to follow. It is difficult to find a segment of society that Louise didn’t help shape over the course of more than thirty years in Congress, from health care to genetic nondiscrimination to historic ethics reforms. The Slaughter family is incredibly grateful for all the support during this difficult time. Details on funeral arrangements will be provided when they are available,” Fitzsimmons said in his statement.

Slaughter was also an enthusiastic passenger railroad advocate and that passion may, ultimately, serve as a public monument to her legacy. Slaughter was instrumental in securing the necessary funding for Rochester’s new Amtrak station, and over this past weekend, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Governor Cuomo urged Amtrak to rename the terminal the Louise M. Slaughter Intermodal Station.

“The simple fact is the new Rochester station would not now exist without Louise Slaughter’s vision and determination,” Schumer and Gillibrand wrote in their letter to Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson.

Amtrak has agreed to the request, according to a press release sent out March 21 by Schumer and Gillibrand.  Amtrak will work with the city and state on details and funding related to the naming and a commemorative plaque.

Slaughter’s husband, Bob, died in 2014. She is survived by their three daughters, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Since news of Slaughter’s death broke, many elected officials and business leaders have issued statements. Here are some of them:

Dr. Jim Maxwell, who would have been her Republican opponent in this year’s election:

“I'm deeply saddened to hear of Louise Slaughter's passing; my prayers are with her family, friends, and devoted staff during this time. Louise was respected by so many of us here in Monroe County - she was a champion for working families, a fierce advocate for her district, and a role model for a new generation of leaders. Her service made us a better nation. Today we set aside politics to celebrate the life of Congresswoman Slaughter."

Adam Bello, Monroe County clerk and former Irondequoit supervisor:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. Some of my earliest experience learning about responsive and effective government came from serving as an intern in her D.C. office – including watching her and her colleagues spring into action on 9/11. “From the Monroe County Legislature to the New York State Assembly to the halls of Congress, Louise embodied principled leadership, having courage in one’s convictions, and using positions of authority to improve the lives of hardworking, ordinary Americans. Louise’s support and advice have helped not only me, but countless other public servants in our area, become more effective leaders. Rochester is a better place today because of Louise.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren:

“I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who was the embodiment of leadership and tireless advocacy for her constituents. I offer my condolences to her family and friends in this time of mourning. From the Monroe County Legislature, to the New York State Assembly to the Halls of Congress, Congresswoman Slaughter set an example of public service that put people first. The citizens of Rochester, along with women and minorities across our entire country, have lost a voice in Washington. But the legacy of Louise Slaughter is truly enduring and I am confident her accomplishments will benefit our city and nation for generations to come.”

State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle:

“For nearly 50 years, Louise Slaughter was a tireless advocate for our community and one of our nation’s most fearless champions for fairness, equality, and justice. Her work and legacy will forever be an inspiration to me and I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to call her my friend and partner in public service.

“As a community and a nation, we mourn her passing but take comfort in the knowledge that Louise’s legacy and contributions will be felt for many, many years to come.

“I offer my deepest condolences to the entire Slaughter family during this difficult time. Please know that you are surrounded by the prayers and gratitude of an indebted community.”

City Council President Loretta Scott, on behalf of City Council:

"It is with great sorrow that we send our condolences to the family of Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter. Today marks the end of an era, Congresswoman Slaughter served our community with distinction for over three decades fighting tirelessly in Congress for our region. Her incredible impact on our country will be felt for generations to come both locally and throughout the nation. People will benefit from her work in all facets of their lives including: education, health care, infrastructure and technology. Louise was a champion for all people, and she will be truly missed."

RIT President David Munson:

“We at RIT are deeply saddened by this loss,” said David Munson, president of Rochester Institute of Technology. “Congresswoman Slaughter was a wonderfully engaging person and a tireless advocate for this university and the entire region she represented. She was a champion, fighting for what was right, and what was needed. And her energy and passion inspired us to think big, helping spur Rochester to become a national center for photonics, manufacturing, sustainability and other scientific research. We have all lost a wonderful friend.”

University of Rochester President Richard Feldman:

On behalf of the University of Rochester, I want to express my profound sadness at the news of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s passing. I also want to extend my deepest condolences to her family and her staff. Louise was not only a close friend to this institution and to many who worked here, but she was also one of our greatest champions. She was giant among her peers in the U.S. House of Representatives, a trailblazer, and a tireless advocate for science, healthcare, research, education, arts and the humanities, economic development, and women’s rights. Even while being elevated as one of the most powerful members of Congress, Louise always remembered where she came from and her first priority was to her community and her constituents. Her contributions to the University and this region are enduring and her death is a significant loss to our state and the nation. Her achievements have left an indelible mark that will be felt for generations to come. The University was honored to have her open our new downtown business incubator only a couple of weeks ago, and we were extraordinarily proud to present her with the University’s highest honor – the Eastman Medal – several years ago in recognition of her outstanding dedication as a public servant and for her extraordinary commitment to the citizens of New York and the nation. The University’s flags will fly at half-staff in tribute to Louise Slaughter and her lifetime of extraordinary service, achievement, and leadership.

Governor Andrew Cuomo:

"Louise Slaughter was a champion for New York who had a larger than life presence in Rochester area politics. For more than 30 years, she served in the U.S. House of Representatives with unmatched charm, sharp wit and an insatiable passion to improve the lives of everyone in her community.

"As Dean of our Congressional Delegation, she made all New Yorkers proud. With her training as a scientist, Louise fought for fairness and led the way on the major issues of our time, from environmental preservation to women's rights to attracting 21st century jobs in cutting edge industries like photonics.

"She was trailblazer, a partner and friend ever since we worked together for my father more than four decades ago. She will be missed greatly by all who knew her, but she will not be forgotten anytime soon by all those she served."

Monroe County Democratic Committee Chair Jamie Romeo:

“It is difficult to put in words the loss our community has suffered today. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was a living icon for women from all walks of life who wanted to get off the sidelines and make positive change in their community. I know many, including myself, would not be where they are today without the support and guidance from Louise, and also thanks to the trial she blazed in her first ventures into politics in Monroe County.

“Our hearts are heavy with sorrow and we are full with the love we have for Louise. Today we pause to thank you Louise, for everything you have done. Our deepest condolences to her family and everyone whose lives she has touched.”

Bob Duffy, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, former lieutenant governor, and former Rochester mayor:

“Louise was a friend and a colleague for years and I am shocked by her passing. Words cannot express how saddened I am by her death. She was such a tireless advocate and great public servant for our community and region throughout her tenure in Congress. Whether people agreed or disagreed with her positions, I can assure you that they were established with the utmost integrity because Louise always took stands that she firmly believed in. To me, that is the essence of great public service. I express my deepest condolences to her family.”

Monroe County Executive and former county clerk Cheryl Dinolfo:

“On behalf of residents and families across Monroe County, I extend my deepest condolences on the passing of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. Above all else, Louise was always a great reflection of the community and people she represented – a strong, principled and resilient public servant who dedicated much of her life to helping her neighbors. She was also a trailblazing woman leader both in Washington and here at home, serving as an inspiration for many women who have since followed in her footsteps to serve in elected office on both sides of the aisle. Out of respect for Louise’s incredible life and legacy, I am ordering flags to fly at half-staff at all Monroe County facilities beginning today. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Slaughter family and the Congresswoman’s many friends and colleagues.”

Bill Reilich, Greece supervisor and Monroe County Republican Committee chair:

“At this difficult time, I want to first and foremost express my deepest condolences to Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's family. She has long served her constituents with strength and passion and as a senior member in Congress is responsible for many initiatives and has secured both funding and support for many critical issues.”

State Senator Rich Funke:

“Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was a staunch supporter of our community for decades, from the County Legislature to the NYS Assembly, to the halls of Congress. She worked tirelessly to move our regional economy forward and to champion women’s rights. I had great respect for her. ‬Louise was tenacious, determined and fought hard for what she believed in, yet compassionate. May God bless her family and many friends at this difficult time.”

Republican House Representative Tom Reed:

"I am sad to learn about the passing of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. Louise worked tirelessly to help improve the lives of those in the Rochester region and Western New York. It was an honor to serve in the House with her over the years. My deepest sympathies go out to her family. She will be missed."

Senator Chuck Schumer:

“Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was a giant. She had deep convictions — on both issues important to the people of Rochester, and for the integrity and honesty of the political system. Throughout her entire career, Louise worked with people from so many different philosophies and backgrounds, because she was such a genuine human spirit. The ferocity of her advocacy was matched only by the depth of her compassion and humanity. Her passing will leave a gaping hole in our hearts and our nation. My sincere condolences go out to her daughters and grandchildren and to the legions of people who loved and admired her.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

“I am deeply saddened that my dear friend and colleague Louise Slaughter has passed away. As a long-serving leader of the House Rules Committee, she tirelessly fought for Democratic principles and gave a voice to those who needed it. Louise devoted her life to serving the Rochester community, she never wavered in her fierce defense of our shared values as Americans, and she was one of the kindest and most compassionate colleagues I’ve ever had. She was a brilliant microbiologist who worked tirelessly to make our food supply safer, she was a moral leader who passed the Stock Act to prevent corruption in Congress, and she was a proud New Yorker who fought to bring high-speed rail to our state. Louise will be remembered as one of the great, pioneering women in our country’s history, and it was an honor to serve alongside her in Congress. I offer my heartfelt prayers and condolences to her entire family.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

“The passing of Representative Slaughter is a tremendous loss for the City of Rochester, and all New Yorkers.

"Born the daughter of a blacksmith, she never lost her Kentucky accent, but she rose to become an icon in Western New York. She got her political start as an activist trying to protect the Hart’s Woods from development, and although she wasn’t successful in that endeavor, she never gave up fighting for what she believed in, from the County Legislature, to the State Assembly to the halls of Congress.

"Despite the sexism she faced while running for office as a woman and as the mother of young children, she prevailed, and rose to become the first woman chair of the powerful House Rules Committee. As an influential voice for women in our nation’s capital, she coauthored the landmark Violence Against Women Act, among other critical legislation.

"In my own experience working with Representative Slaughter to protect the Great Lakes from pollution and combat the opioid epidemic, her deep knowledge of policy and profound commitment to her community always shined through.

"She was beloved by the Rochester community and will be sorely missed. I offer my sincere condolences to her family and friends during this difficult time.”

Democratic House Representative Paul Tonko, whose district covers the Capital Region:

“History will remember Louise Slaughter as one of the most respected and dedicated members ever to walk the halls of Congress. I will remember her as a dear and loyal friend. As she would say, I will miss her like a front tooth.

“Louise was beloved for her lifetime of service to the people of Rochester. Her fierce and principled leadership as the dean of our New York delegation and as the first woman ever to chair the House Rules Committee elevated our work in Congress every day. When she spoke it was with conviction, charm, intellect, integrity, and a force that felt at times like it would raise the Capitol dome.

“Louise touched the lives of many with the warmth of her smile and the sweet sound of her Kentucky accent. Her determination to fight for the people of New York and our nation will long be a shining example for aspiring young women and all Americans of good conscience and selfless heart.

“Working with Louise taught me a great deal about how to be a better public servant and I will forever miss our countless conversations and her warm and wise counsel. May her extraordinary legacy continue to guide us, and may her family find peace in in the knowledge that her spirit lives on in all who were lucky enough to know her well.”

Democratic House Representative Barbara Lee of California:

“I am heartbroken over the passing of my dear friend and mentor, Louise Slaughter. Louise was a fighter and champion for American working families for over 30 years. She was a trailblazer, the first woman to serve as Chair of the Rules Committee and the only microbiologist in Congress. And throughout her years of service, she stayed true to the working families who believed in her. She used her role as Chair to fight for children, families, women, communities of color, and those living in poverty. She served the public with fearlessness, fierceness, and a sense of humor. I will miss her dearly.

“This is a monumental loss for Congress, our country, and the world. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, staff, and the people of New York’s 25th District.”

Jim Howe, executive director of the Nature Conservancy of Central and Western New York:

“Everyone at The Nature Conservancy is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. We wish to extend our condolences to her family and loved ones.

“Louise was a true champion for nature and people, both globally and here in New York. She was a passionate advocate for the Great Lakes, working across party lines to bring critically important funding to our region to improve water quality, fight invasive species and protect the economic benefits we receive from our abundant clean water. As the only microbiologist in Congress, she was committed to ensuring that public policy be driven by science and information. She was a strong supporter of renewable energy development to reduce the threat of climate change and provide the United States more energy independence. And she was an advocate for more funding for farmers to implement conservation practices on their farms.

“The environment is just one part of Louise’s great legacy of public service, but it is one that will stand out as a gift to future generations. We will continue to be grateful for the work she did on behalf of both New York’s citizens and our forests, farms, and clean air and water. We sincerely hope that Louise’s loved ones will take comfort from the deeply meaningful and beneficial impact she had on the lives of so many.”

Edward White, chair of the National Photonics Initiative steering committee, and vice president of Test, Assembly and Packaging for AIM Photonics:

“In her long tenure in Congress, Louise Slaughter had an impact on many initiatives. However, her impact on the optics and photonics industry has been notable. Whenever we met, she was always encouraging about the work we were doing. Her legacy will live on for many years.”

Elizabeth Rogan, The Optical Society CEO:

“Louise Slaughter was a champion for Rochester, New York, for optics and photonics and for science and engineering, among her many achievements. We’re saddened with the news of this loss, but grateful for all she accomplished for our community through her many years of effective and tireless leadership.”

Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE:

“Trained in both microbiology and public health, Louise was a progressive, active and vocal advocate for our field, most recently speaking out against the proposal to close Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Most of all, it was a deep honor and pleasure to interact with Louise. She had a warm, vivacious personality, a sharp mind and a canny wit. On a personal level, for many people, she will be greatly missed.”

Dan Maloney, president of Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation:

"It was a great honor to be constituent and friend of our great representative, Louise Slaughter. God bless her, and may God rest her in his care - she has earned our everlasting admiration and respect. She was a true champion for the working class, and her advocacy will be sorely missed. Louise will live forever in our hearts and memories, and we are better people for having known her."

Mario Cilento, president NYS AFL-CIO:

"On behalf of the 2.5 million members of the New York State AFL-CIO, I send my deepest condolences to the family of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. I am so saddened to hear of her passing. Rep. Slaughter was a true champion of the labor movement who fought hard to protect the rights and enhance the lives of working men and women. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this most difficult time."

This is a developing story which has been updated and modified several times.

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