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Tom RichardsThoughts about the biggest upset in Rochester politics since Bill Johnson won the 1993 mayoral primary:

1. Grassroots campaigns win primaries. Tom Richards spent tens of thousands of dollars more than Lovely Warren. But he spent it on television ads. Too few people vote in primaries for television to be effective. Meanwhile, Warren stuffed mailboxes, put up lawn signs and went door to door. The Democratic Party, which backed Richards, took this race for granted and it showed throughout the campaign.

2. Polls can be wrong. The Siena College poll showing Richards with a 63-27 lead turned out to be preposterously wrong. The sample was made up of 60 percent white people and 37 percent black people, which offers some explanation. But seriously, this poll BOMBED.

3. Polls can keep people home. The Siena College poll showed Richards with such a huge lead, his supporters may have driven right home after a hot day at the office. On the flip side, that poll did nothing to discourage Warren’s supporters.

4. The special election showed signs of doom for Richards. The mayor did not get 50 percent of the vote in the 2011 special election, despite having the backing of the Democratic Party and black leaders. The vote was very much along racial lines. A special election is different than a primary. All parties can vote in a special election. It’s very possible – even likely – Richards was bolstered by blanks and Republicans. The first sign the Democrats backed the wrong horse came in 2011.

5. Low turnout matters. In primaries, every vote counts. Warren clearly got her base to the polls. Only 15,000 people voted. That compares to 21,000 Democrats in the 2005 mayoral primary and 25,000 voters of all parties in the 2011 special election.

6. Does Richards even have a base? (See #4.) Many voters have told me they just didn’t connect with him. They saw him as aloof and distant from their problems. Having covered Richards for years now, I don’t think that’s true. But he failed to communicate his message to the public. The Duffy machine set Richards up as mayor, but Richards never had Duffy-like charisma or widespread support.

7. Warren did a superb job connecting with voters and pressing the need for change.

8. The Bob Duffy era is dead.

9. The David Gantt era is still alive.

<Watch my interview with Richards after his defeat.>

<Watch my interview with Bill Johnson.>

<Watch my interview with Alex White.>

<Siena admits poll was messed up.>

29 Responses to He Wasn’t the Guy (Or Gal)

  1. Some simply say it was a lovely outcome.

  2. What experience does Lovely have with businesses? How will she be able to attract new businesses and deal with the current ones?
    This is a very scary thought

  3. September 11, 2013 at 9:07 am Patrick Chefalo responds:

    I hope it’s not about race. I hope people really, really want newer ideas and connections from City Hall to neighborhoods. That part rings true with me. Richards to me embodies the “Two Cities” approach to governance – keep the East side happy, let the others fend for themselves.

  4. I was impressed with Warren’s debate,. She had good ideas. The key to her success will be to make sure she has competent managers and makes her vision to those people clear. Hopefully she will not fill her positions with all “Yes, anything you say” people, but will encourage debate before she makes final decisions.

  5. September 11, 2013 at 9:27 am Lellingw responds:

    Tom Richards was always sen schmoozing with business people but I never saw him with the general public for any length of time. His tour with Cuomo on the RTS bus was all about business and nothing about the people of Rochester. When you have such a disconnect you are going to have problems. He didn’t do such massive mistakes such as he fast ferry or lobby for mayoral control, but did he ever even ask people to vote for him? He merely expected it. The businesses coming in didn’t seem to have anything to do with the people living in the city and they didn’t see a benefit of it.

  6. September 11, 2013 at 10:09 am DominionROC responds:

    The bottom line….Richards is a Republican in a strongly Democratic city.

    Hopefully citizens at a local, state and national level understand that Republicans strongly support the rich and powerful…with a level of disdain for the working class. There is much to much power among the financial elite. Its time for our nation to rebuild the middle class…it benefits everyone.

    Richards just reflects the old Republican mentality that what is good for the rich will trickle down to the poor. This has NOT worked…now its time for a Progressive Agenda at a local, state and national level.

    Good luck Mayor Warren…we need your youth, energy and progressive new ideas!

    • I’m not sure where you got any of your “facts” from in this post.
      -Richards is a Democrat and was endorsed by the Monroe County democrat party.
      -“The old Republican mentality” that you may be referring to is catering to businesses to bring them downtown. Being decisively anti-business is what has killed urban areas all over the country. Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, all have elected Democratic mayors in every election over the past 50-60 years.
      -Most importantly, Lovely is not Mayor Warren yet. She’ll still have to beat the Green party candidate in November (likely), and probably have to beat Richards on another ticket (very questionable given most Republicans will vote Richards)

    • No, the bottom line is your facts are wrong.

      Richards is a DEMOCRAT. The election in question was the DEMOCRAT primary. The winner will be endorsed by the DEMOCRAT party.

      Just because someone is educated in business doesn’t mean he can’t be a DEMOCRAT.

      Please use facts when you post and not just unfounded opinions.

      • September 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

        I’m sorry but was isn’t factual here?

        • I’m reading this as “…what isn’t factual here?” assuming a typo. (apologies if it is a bad assumption).

          The fact I was disputing is that DominionROC said that Richards was a Republican. Now some of his actions may make DominionROC see him in that light, but factually he is a Democrat.

  7. What REALLY does a mayor do? You certainly can screw things up royally ( think Mayor Johnson and the Fast Ferry and his refusal to accept an offer to turn Midtown into a Casino ). Think Duffy…what did he really do? He talked positive and gave everyone a feel good attitude. But it was really only window dressing. He screwed up Renasance Square development and left Rochester with no real upgrades. Think Richards…he pandered to the loudest crybabies ( remember the takeover of our city park by the occupation movement ). Now we have David Gantt’s puppet running the show in Rochester. Yes, I see a bright future ahead ( ha, ha ha ). All this truly means is new jobs for Warren’s supporters and retirement ( or double dipping ) for Duffy , er I mean Richards supporters. I don’t see how ANYONE could actually improve conditions in the City without a drastic reversal in giveaways and excuses. Just my thoughts….

  8. Both candidates talked about issues (jobs, crime, education) but neither said specifically what ideas they had.

    All to often politicians say “I’ll get more jobs” or “I’ll fix blah blah blah” but never say a word about how they will do it or what ideas they have that are different than their opponent.

    Personally I prefer to hear about solutions, not problems.

  9. September 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm Tom Brennan responds:

    There is another upset winner, Aaron Wicks of the Smugtown Beacon. He did his own research, thought for himself, and nailed it by predicting who come out, and wouldn’t. BTW the 1993 upset win of Bill’s pales in comparison to this. Johnson did not have committee support, but Tom Frey was his Treasurer, Gannett and City paper endorsed him, and was leading the polls going into the election. Bill’s most impressive political accomplishment, actually, was his near win in 2011, from a third party line, which indeed exposed Richards’ vulnerability in a Democratic primary, a primary Warren helped him sidestep in 2011. The result yesterday was about turnout and demographics. Whether it also about change, or just the fallout of a backroom deal gone bad, remains to be seen. It was a wonderful reply to the arrogance Morelle and Duffy displayed earlier in the year.

  10. While City schools and neighborhood revitalization is very important, 95% of business owners (per the Rochester Business Journal) backed Richards. Unfortunately, if businesses feel like downtown is an unwelcome environment they will take their companies back to the suburbs. And there go the jobs. You do need to cater to businesses to a certain extent

  11. September 11, 2013 at 9:05 pm RaChaCha responds:

    My friend Tom Brennan, one of the most thoughtful folks in Rochester politics, is spot on as usual. Indeed, the very people who machinated the special election in ’11, knowing that Richards couldn’t survive a primary, should have known better than anyone else that Richards needed to campaign his ass off this year.

    Hats off to Aaron Wicks of the Beacon!

    BTW, one of these days on down the road, Rochester would benefit greatly from having a Mayor Barnhart.

  12. Anyone who thinks it still Republicans and the rich —apparently have not followed who Obama’s friends are in Hollywood, Buffet, Gates etc… the list is endless. Or perhaps compare net worth of REP vs DEMs in the senate.

    On the mayor race, race was the issue clearly. Whites have shown time and again they will vote for blacks over whites. We have yet to see that occur the other way, and this election points that out in greater detail. How long will it be until a white man is elected Mayor of Rochester over a black candidate? 100 or more years?

    And Finally, with city schools a disaster of epic proportions, city voters voted for race again and re-elected proven incompetent school board members vs trying someone NEW and in one case or more who happened to be highly qualified and white.

    City voters have the schools they voted for and should then not look to the burbs and county taxpayers to solve CSD problems they won’t vote to try and resolve themselves.

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  14. September 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm DominionROC responds:

    Richards is a DINO…Democrat in name only!

    • Democrat Duffy picked him as his successor and Democrat party supported his re-election last time.

      Must be some higher level Democrats feel he is a good Democrat.

  15. September 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm Patrick Chefalo responds:

    Hmm. As a response to one of the comments here: I recall that Bob Duffy (who although pretty tall appears to be light-skinned) beat Wade Norwood (who in all the pictures I’ve seen _doesn’t_ appear to be light-skinned) in a primary.

    Unless the writer was predicting it would be another 100 years?

    Race-baiting is alive and well and calls Monroe County its home town, I hear. Your mileage my vary.

  16. Hmm… ..always love a post that starts that way.

    I believe Steven May defeated a black man for mayor in 1968 as well so that too should prove the concept wrong.

    Looking back or looking forward? How many times have we been told demographics are changing and white males are the minority and getting smaller in their percentage of population? Is that not happening in the city? Was there a demand for a black or white chief of police from the “community”? Since Duffy came from those ranks we’ve had two black chiefs, so I don’t see a white male coming from those ranks in the near future to ascend to be mayor all be it a non traditional path.

    Funny how predicting more “minorities” will be elected is just progressive thinking, but claiming a white male has less and less a chance to be elected, for various and statistically proven voting patterns by race… is called “race baiting”.

    Yes I know its impossible for minorities to be racist, only whites can be that. Voting patterns of two days or the last two presidential elections be dammed.

    Per the city news paper ” Despite huge public concern about the state of Rochester’s schools, voters returned the incumbents. Van White was the clearest winner among city school board candidates, the only one gathering more than 20 percent of the vote. White was followed by incumbent Cynthia Elliott. Incumbent Jose Cruz has narrowly defeated newcomer Candice Lucas.”

    And Liz Hallmark a former teacher and outstanding well educated candidate endorsed by the D&C couldn’t draw half the votes needed to be elected to this failing incompetent board? She couldn’t make it to even a losing 4th place. Oh yea she’s white –and incompetent incumbents were re-elected and they are what color, or do you know the 4th place person’s race?

    IF its not race baiting to applaud the election of a minority, its not race baiting to point out other races have less and less chance of election success if current race based voting patterns continue.

  17. September 13, 2013 at 2:06 am Patrick Chefalo responds:

    Mr? or Ms? Oreilly:

    Bring the race of a person into the discussion of results and eventualities is race-baiting, by definition. Normally practiced by people who have little else on their minds. So you hooked me, sweetie. Thanks for playing.

  18. Gee “sweetie”
    By that “definition”

    “Bring the race of a person into the discussion of results and eventualities is race-baiting”

    Then every commentator or reporter on every TV news outlet must be race-baiting… by “your definition” both locally, nationally and in print.

    Virtually every poll cites a racial component break down. The US Census differentiates by race. Apparently all are race baiting.

    Go back to the library- keep digging for something, to back your up your name calling. So far the findings of your research have no logic or facts. Which usually is the case when one resorts to “name calling”

  19. September 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm Patrick Chefalo responds:

    Oreilly (must be a male; the testosterone shows): I never called you anything. Ad hominem attacks are the lowest form of argument, sweetie.

    Yep, BTW, all that’s all race-baiting in the media, click-porn these days, yellow journalism when you were in school; except where equal protection programs are in place and must be monitored, so the statistics are relevant to the authorities that are responsible. The world is mysterious to some (note you aren’t mentioned by name.)

  20. No no mention by name ….. so your off the hook right… your cool.

    Just call it race baiting, male testosterone, sweetie … those aren’t name calls, right.

    Care to show where my use of the results was proven wrong? Want to debate why 90 to 95 % of blacks voted for Obama why reporting that FACT is now race baiting in your world?

    Or come up with an excuse to explain why 3 highly incompetent incumbents, who control the extremely failing CSD were re-elected over a highly qualified white woman, and that choice of the voters was not based on race?

    From the movie Blues Brothers .. who you going to believe me or your eyes?

    Make some veiled name calls to be cool again, but debate the facts… you tried that.. it had no logic and didn’t work…so go to the name calls again. Well done.

  21. September 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm Patrick Chefalo responds:

    Oreilly, I am not sensitive to racial issues, so your electoral allusions are wasted on me. You are obviously all about race: examine your conscience, then go back to church. IMHO it might help.

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  23. “I am not sensitive to racial issues”— sure you’re not.. your above all others who are. Definitely for sure on that one.

    Ms Barnhart today asked Councilman McFadden on TV to comment on the racial divide in the Warren election where the East side, mostly white voter for Richards, where the west side mostly AA voted for Warren. I guess in your mind she is a race baiter by asking that questions and pointing out that breakdown of the voters by racial lines.

    If your offering advice for me to go to church … know any racial churches? – gee I don’t know perhaps the Rev Wrights or a service by REV’s Jackson or Sharpton.. they certainly aren’t about race or race baiters are they?

    You may not think you’re sensitive to racial issues but you fool no one, or you wouldn’t make comments about me vs offering a counter point to my arguments.

    And if my electoral “allusions” (or facts) are wasted on you… that may be in fact correct– as apparently you don’t understand the facts can’t comprehend them. Therefore maybe some more time in an objective school is warranted, if you can find one. Try a few statistics courses that might help

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