LONSBERRY: Lovely's vindication

It was a vindication.

Of everything.

Of her legitimacy as mayor, of her role as leader of city Democrats, of the belief that a girl from Jefferson Avenue can grow up to be anything she wants.

The Lovely Warren landslide in last night's Democratic mayoral primary put a stake through the heart of four years of conventional wisdom and naysaying. It showed that last time wasn't about apathy on the part of opponents, and this time wasn't about the dividing of the vote.

It was about Lovely Warren and the fact that there is no division among city Democrats. It was about the Lovely Warren bus and the fact that you're either on it, or you're getting run over by it.

If there are milestones in a politician's career -- and in the rise of a community -- last night was an important one. Lovely Warren showed that she is not a fluke, she is not riding on anyone's coattails, she is not just a candidate for blacks, she is not a downtown candidate, she is a citywide behemoth.

Though just 8 percent of the city's population took part in the vote, and some two-thirds of those people cast their ballot for Lovely Warren, the number that counts is 63. That was the percentage of the vote collected by the mayor, and in our system -- especially in a three-way vote -- that is a landslide. It is a mandate. It is a thunderous win. It is a no-doubt-about-it romp.

Turnout was some 20 percent higher than it was four years ago, and the largest portion and proportion of that went to Lovely Warren. She didn't coast to victory, she sprinted to victory.

And her opponents were obliterated.

Jim Sheppard, the hand-picked candidate of the other faction of city Democrats, failed to get one-third the support Lovely Warren got. That may not end his relevance, but it certainly must end the relevance of the faction behind him. It took its best shot, and got knocked on its ass. Any persistant resistance to Lovely Warren's leadership of city Democrats will by about obstinence, not democracy. 

In our system, you ask the people what they want. And last night Rochester Democrats answered that question with crystal clarity.

The third candidate, Rachel Barnhart, took up the mantra at the end of the campaign that if you want it, you have to take it. You have to fight. You have to work the political system and build sufficient support to force the powers that be to respect you. Nobody gives you anything, you have to take it by force of the people. Those words and that principle are true, but they are about Lovely Warren, not Rachel Barnhart. Lovely Warren, over years and over this campaign, took it. She seized it. She fought and she won.

And Rachel Barnhart lost. Last year, she ran for Assembly in a district with 32,630 Democratic voters. She got 2,368 votes. Last night, she ran in a city with 66,259 Democratic voters, and got 3,090 votes. That means that with twice as many available voters to be reached, she only increased her vote total by a third. That means she failed.

But neither Rachel Barnhart nor Jim Sheppard mattered last night. They were zebras in the face of a lion. Neither one of them, nor the two of them combined, made any significant impact on the primary election. It was all about Lovely.

And that's the take away.

This is not an accidental mayor. 

This is not a factional mayor.

This is not an asterisk mayor.

This is a strong mayor.

And she proved that last night the way we prove things in America -- at the ballot box.

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