LONSBERRY: Rachel Got Screwed

Rachel Barnhart is a pain in the ass.

And she might be nuts.

               But she is a human being with feelings, and she is an American citizen with rights.

               And yesterday she got screwed.

               In an effort to keep her from being a Democratic candidate for the Monroe County Legislature, the Monroe County Democratic Party – probably at the direction of Mayor Lovely Warren and Assemblyman Harry Bronson – created a once-only set of rules and stuffed the ballot box against her.

               That’s not right.

               And you can’t do the right thing the wrong way.

               Here’s the background. Rachel Barnhart, 42, was a Rochester television reporter. High maintenance and sometimes at cross purposes with her coworkers, she was accomplished and respected. Then she went into politics. She ran against Bronson, and got spanked. She ran against Warren, and got spanked.

               Along the way she picked up the reputation of being an angry, sometimes vindictive, perpetual candidate. And she seems to see all opposition or criticism as arising from one sort of bigotry or another -- usually misogyny.

               Yet, she was solicited by the chairman of the 21 st Legislative District’s Democratic committee to be a candidate for the County Legislature. And so she put her name in a week ago, to be considered as the committee met to select its nominee.

               That didn’t go well with the Democratic establishment – which roundly hates her.

               So political newcomer Victor Sanchez was recruited to run against her.

               Sanchez is 30, an immigrant, gay-rights activist, and recent campaigner for new Congressman Joe Morelle.

               At the end of the committee meeting, the vote was 12 to 12, and everybody went home.

               They shouldn’t have. They were supposed to keep voting until somebody had a majority.

               To rectify the problem, by having a revote, another meeting was called for 6 p.m. yesterday. 

               But Sunday, a rule change was announced.

               Instead of having the vote just at 6 at the committee meeting, the vote would also be held throughout the day at the office of the Monroe County Democratic Committee. Specifically, there would be a box on the desk of the county chair – who got the job from Lovely Warren, who hates Rachel Barnhart – and people could place their ballots in that box.

               Inquiries to various Democrats produced no recollection of this sort of committee voting ever taking place before.

               It was a special ballot stuffing orchestrated to obstruct a political rival of the mayor.

               And it worked.

               When Rachel Barnhart brought 10 new voters to the originally scheduled 6 o’clock ballot, she could not overcome the votes collected earlier in the day, and fell short 35 to 26.

               And that’s crooked.

               You can’t change the rules halfway through in order to help one candidate or – as is the case here – hurt the other. If party bosses are determining who the candidates are, then it is not truly a democratic party.

               The county convention is tomorrow night, and Rachel Barnhart has the option of trying to force a primary – which would only reinforce her “disgruntled candidate” brand.

               Victor Sanchez is not the bad guy in this, but he is a beneficiary. If he is elected, only time will tell if he is worthy of the opportunity that has fallen in his lap.

               But Rachel Barnhart is the loser in this.

               Because the Democratic power structure cheated.

               And that is a hard lesson about integrity – or lack of it – in Rochester politics.

               The mayor got her candidate, but she unnecessarily hurt the feelings of another person in doing so, and she highlighted the political bossism that has come to define her city.

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