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Race for the Senate’s 55th District is about roots 

The state Senate’s 55th District is a testament to the power of gerrymandering. It combines Democratic strongholds in Irondequoit and Rochester’s east side with Republican leaning suburbs and rural towns in Ontario County.

This is the territory over which Democrat Samra Brouk and Republican Chris Missick are competing. Democrats have the enrollment advantage in the district but the GOP has historically held the seat, in part because voters in the city don’t turn out at the same rate as those in the towns.

click to enlarge Chris Missick - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Chris Missick
Republican Rich Funke has represented the district since 2015 but decided not to seek re-election this year. The GOP lost control of the chamber in the 2018 elections and several Republican senators made a similar choice, presumably because they didn’t want to serve in the minority.

The relatively recent power shift in the Senate gives the 55th District race statewide importance. If Brouk wins the seat, she could bolster the Senate’s Democratic majority. A victory by Missick could aid in preventing the Senate Republican conference from thinning further.

A winemaker and attorney who lives in Victor, Missick co-owns the Bellangelo winery on Seneca Lake’s west side. Missick said he got into the race because of bail reform. This year, new laws took effect that eliminated cash bail for many non-violent offenses in favor of non-monetary forms of pretrial release. Like many critics of the reforms, he believes they should have preserved judges’ discretion to set bail.

“When a judge is looking at a defendant and there is a clear record that shows further victims will be made in our community by putting this person back on the street and they didn’t have the discretion to hold that person until their trial, to me that was a problem,” Missick said.

Otherwise, Missick’s campaign has focused mostly on pocketbook issues and small businesses. He wants the state to provide relief to businesses by cutting down on the number of licenses they have to get and fees they have to pay, and he wants lawmakers to find ways to reduce New Yorkers’ property taxes.

Missick has also proposed the creation of a state infrastructure bank, which would make grants and loans to struggling urban and rural communities for roads, bridges, electrical grids, water treatment systems, projects to address climate change-related flooding, affordable housing, and broadband internet, among other efforts. He called for a $3 billion bond measure to seed the bank and said the state could find ongoing funding for it by eliminating $425 million in tax credits it provides for film and television production in New York.

“What it does focus on is the working class and making our region attractive for business,” Missick said.

click to enlarge Samra Brouk - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Samra Brouk
Brouk compares the 55th District to a road map of her life. She was born in Rochester and attended city schools before graduating from Pittsford-Mendon High School. Her parents live in Pittsford, her grandparents have lived in East Bloomfield for more than 80 years, and she lives in Rochester’s Park Avenue neighborhood.

“I think that there are a lot of communities that haven’t had their voices heard throughout this district,” said Brouk, a former Peace Corps volunteer who now works with nonprofits on fund-raising, development, and leadership.

Brouk announced her candidacy in November and has campaigned in all corners of the district. She said she often hears from residents concerned about funding for education and health care programs, such as community health centers. She added that New York’s budgets should prioritize those areas and that it should raise taxes on billionaires to generate additional funding for them, education in particular.

She said the state should provide assistance to struggling small businesses to help bolster local economies.

“We have to keep in mind that our goals and our values should be around protecting, supporting, and serving the majority of New Yorkers and not just a few,” Brouk said.

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

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