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Feedback 6/20 

Our endorsement of Joe Morelle in the Democratic Congressional primary brought numerous responses from readers, most of them disagreeing with us. A selection of those comments follows. You'll find more on our Facebook page and in the Comments section under our endorsement article. Due to the volume of responses, readers' feedback is taking the place of Urban Journal this week.

My first reaction to seeing that CITY is endorsing Joe Morelle for the 25th Congressional district? Disappointment.

Disappointment that you chose not to take the opportunity to advocate for an alternative to the status quo. Disappointment that you bought into the fear that the establishment relies on to keep people in line; fear that "the money" won't show up for the candidate, fear of losing the seat, fear of losing clout.

Disappointment that you appear to have forgotten that you're Rochester's "alternative" newspaper.

I was hoping that you would look to the future when making your endorsement. Instead you chose to overlook Morelle's gaping flaws because he has connections and those connections bring money.

Idealistic and naive it may be, but I had hoped that you would endorse the candidate that you felt would best represent our district and support a progressive vision for the country, not the one that you felt had the best chance to win.

We look to CITY to have be a platform for alternatives, and to show problems in a different light. You failed to shine that light this time around.

KARL BERGER

Your endorsement rests on the faulty premise that the 25th district has even a chance of being competitive. Louise Slaughter may have had a close scrape in 2014 (which, by the way, was a Republican wave year) but that means nothing. She won by at least 15 points in almost every other election, which is the same amount that Hillary won this district.

There is no way that a Republican nobody will be competitive in a district like ours, even if he has a lot of money. Republicans are defending over 70 seats this year; they will not have the money or motivation to target ours. If anything, Morelle's time in Albany will make him a target for Republicans eager to portray Democrats as untrustworthy and corrupt.

Any qualified Democrat can win this seat. If that's true, why should we vote for the "safe" candidate who epitomizes the corruption and lack of judgment of Albany? Louise Slaughter was effective not because she spent time in office before Congress and had experience; she was effective because she had convictions, put Rochester's interests ahead of her political career, and was a fighter.

I'm deeply disappointed that a newspaper that I respect so much would use such a weak argument to justify the endorsement of a candidate like Joe Morelle. Rochesterians deserve better.

BEN ZUEGEL

It is difficult to accept that Joe Morelle supports universal health care when he has voted, with the Republicans, against the New York health bill, an equivalent of Medicare for All on the state level.

He has consistently resisted the call to end the private-for-profit insurance-company stranglehold on health insurance, even while chair of the Assembly insurance committee or as majority leader. Insurance and other financial corporations have contributed significantly to his campaigns.

And now he favors a new approach. Why does he not support HR676, the "Medicare for All" bill that Louise Slaughter co-sponsored? Why does he not stand with Physicians for a National Health Plan with 50,000 members advocating HR676?

And what has private, for-profit health insurance done? Millions of bankruptcies and health status in the United States that ranks so low it is to our shame. We don't need insurance companies overruling doctors. We need Medicare for All.

BILL AND SALLY MCCOY

City: the alt-news weekly that is as alternative and newsworthy as a Sinclair TV channel. As predictable and cowardly as an industry shill.

Who could have ever guessed that City, that bastion of independent intellectual political thought, would pick the most entrenched, corporate lame-duck in the running. Oh, right: anyone paying attention. So many opportunities over the years to endorse the change candidate, and you consistently refuse and stump for the insider.

Out of one side of your mouth you say we desperately need change to upset the status quo, and out of the other you endorse one of the most establishment, corrupt, conservative, tone-deaf Democrats in the area.

Rachel Barnhart is the obvious endorsement for this seat. She's the clear choice to carry Louise's mantle. She's shown dogged loyalty to the area, she speaks her mind, hunts down the truth, and advocates and endorses policies based on her own research and analysis.

Perhaps the sorriest part of this endorsement is that in 2018, in the face of the #MeToo movement, City Newspaper would choose the one candidate who called a woman a liar for calling out her abuser. He never even properly apologized. It seems to me that a paper like City survives only by having its finger on the pulse, yet this endorsement shows how numb and out of touch this paper is.

BEN KIERAN

City's analysis of the situation regarding the seat left vacant by Representative Slaughter is excellent as always. The conclusion – not so much so.

Democrats can't afford to lose the seat – check.

Morelle and Wilt are the two candidates who would be most effective in Congress – check.

People (at least some) are tired of Washington insiders – check.

Congress needs more women and more people of color – check.

Morelle represents where the Democratic party has been; Wilt represents where the party needs to go – check.

It seems the endorsement of Morelle over Wilt is based on the proposition that Morelle has more money and name recognition than Wilt. We live in a culture where white men can pretty much be assumed to have more money than women of color, and it makes my heart sick that anyone might choose to vote against Wilt on that basis.

Democrats can't afford to lose this seat, and I think they will be willing to pony up for the Democratic candidate. Low name recognition will be an issue for both Wilt and Maxwell, but again the argument is that the white man has more money and thus will be a more viable candidate. No wonder we have so few women and people of color in elected office!

The point was also made that Republicans are better at turning out the vote than Democrats. If Joe Morelle is the candidate, I think this will be true. But look how Democrats turned out to vote when Barack Obama ran!

Morelle against Maxwell, white male insider versus white male outsider. Wilt against Maxwell paints a very different picture, doesn't it?

Maybe if a smart, articulate, coalition-builder like Wilt is on the ticket, people of color, women, fed-up Democrats, and even independents will turn out in a way they wouldn't for a white male Washington insider. Maybe the entire community will be energized by someone who represents the future, and will turn out to vote for her with passion and enthusiasm. 

NAOMI PLESS

You made a wise choice of Joe Morelle for the Slaughter seat. Morelle's whole public life is a rejoinder to Ronald Reagan's philosophy that "government isn't the answer, it's the problem." The school districts of Rochester, Irondequoit, and Brighton have been well supported by the state during Morelle's tenure. Thousands of seniors, teens, and youngsters play softball, soccer, football, and field hockey at McAvoy Park in Irondequoit, constructed with ample state funding added by Morelle.

On bigger issues, Morelle has been a consistent supporter of broad health-care coverage, women's reproductive rights, and workers' rights. I have had a couple of disagreements with Morelle, but he has had hundreds of votes and public positions which I agree with, and from which this community has benefitted.

In contrast with the other candidates, Morelle knows how to work with others and how to thwart the dangerous positions of a well-funded opposition.

JIM KRAUS

Your logic fails me, and the inconsistency of the article belies the endorsement.

If the qualifications for election to and work in Congress include having name recognition, being progressive, being a "fighter" and not being the status quo, the choice is clear: Rachel Barnhart.

1) You open by implying that a "fighter" is needed to balance Trump and the GOP. Rachel Barnhart has two decades of publicly asking the tough questions and calling out lack of transparency and accountability in politics. She is the clear fighter of the four. Morelle only plays the game and doesn't challenge power, even when clearly the power is bad.

2) You pick and choose significance of legislative experience. While a coalition builder for a number of years within the activist community, Wilt has just a little bit of time in elected office. You praise her time there but dismiss Adam McFadden by saying his many years on City Council don't compare to Morelle's experience, which means you have inconsistent yardsticks.

3) You claim all four are "progressives." While three are consistent in that regard, Morelle has a mixed history when not politically beneficial to him. He voted "no" on the NY Health Plan, then claimed it was a poorly written bill when he should have helped shape it. All while he gets a ton of money from insurance companies. He offhandedly dismissed a woman's claim of sexual attack.

4) Working in the current House is very different from all the candidates' current work. Morelle is majority leader in a Dem-controlled legislature, McFadden is in Dem-controlled City Council, Wilt is in Dem-controlled town council, and they don't have records of tough negotiations for bills. Rachel Barnhart has a history of studying, challenging, and reporting on both parties in many different settings.

5) The work in Congress often is in committees, asking probing questions with opposition party doing same. Rachel Barnhart clearly has the smarts, skills, experience, and qualities to ask questions that are tough.

6) You don't consider who can represent the whole of NY-25. Rachel Barnhart knows the whole district, both city and suburbs. She's been to every corner of it for years, covering news and studying both sides of politics and issues. The other three are in areas that are only slices of the larger district.

7) Morelle's fundraising skill is a major quality? If the seat is important for the Dems and progressives, whoever wins the primary will be able to secure funding from many sources, so one candidate's history of gathering lobbyist money won't be the deciding factor.

You missed the opportunity to help the community see how Democrats can move forward. With smarts, love of Rochester, knowledge of the whole district, clear fighter qualities, and not being "status quo," the endorsement should have been Rachel Barnhart.

TIM MALIA

Morelle is the career politician, far from progressive but very close to Albany corruption.

The comparisons between Morelle and Wilt take me back to 2016 with Clinton and Sanders, Morelle and Clinton being the proclaimed frontrunners, with Wilt and Sanders having the better ideas and true progressive vision. Please note frontrunner Clinton lost.

My endorsement goes to Robin Wilt.

TOM JANOWSKI

My initial reaction was "Ugh!" but we desperately need a Democrat to hold this seat, and Morelle has the best chance to make that happen.

Wilt has a lot of promise locally, but she hasn't gotten her name out there and done the legwork that was needed for people to vote for her. Morelle is riding on his experience and name recognition, but in the end will still be better than Maxwell.

SEANA CHRISTINE CATHERMAN

Disappointed beyond belief in City Newspaper. In addition to intelligence, ability, and willingness to listen to others, Robin Wilt has a deep history of activism. She could carry into Congress her ability to build coalitions between groups as she has between the city of Rochester and the suburbs. With her tenacity, she'd be the strongest of the four candidates vying for the seat to combat the Trump administration.

GERRY MINERD

I'll be voting for Robin Wilt. Joe Morelle is a good man, but we ran on the status quo in 2016 and we lost, and also many times before that over the course of my lifetime with nondescript go-along, get-along candidates.

I'm tired of losing with establishment politicians. We need someone who can speak to the heart and soul of the party.

JIM ZACCARIA

The primary reason that I am a member of the Democratic Party is Joe Morelle. When did experience become a negative? I like and respect Robin Wilt and the others competing for this seat, but Joe's experience and knowledge make him my choice. I respect all of the candidates and will support whoever wins the June 26 primary.

JOAN ROBY DAVIDSON

Ridiculous. Have a damn backbone and support who you know is the right candidate for the job. Progressive change is the only way forward, and Morelle is nothing close to progressive. #Wilt2018.

DONALD MARTELL

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