Partisan divide hovers over 25th Congressional District race

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In the race for New York’s 25th Congressional District, Republican challenger George Mitris is trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Joseph Morelle.

Mitris is a Rochester bankruptcy lawyer and a first-time candidate. 

Morelle, a former state Assembly majority leader, leader of the Monroe County Democratic Committee and Monroe County lawmaker, is finishing his first term in Congress in a seat won as the capstone of a more than four-decade career in politics. 

The 25th District includes the city of Rochester and surrounding suburbs that fall within Monroe County’s borders. Among registered voters in the district, Democrats outnumber Republicans, 43 percent to 26 percent.

Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson is running on the Libertarian Party line.

Like most national races and some local ones in this presidential election year, the 25th District contest takes place in the shadow of Donald Trump’s presidency and a partisan divide arguably wider than the United States has seen since the Civil War.

Both candidates agree that the rift needs to be healed, particularly in a time when a deadly and still-worsening pandemic grips the nation. They differ on where the blame lies for creating and fostering the partisan gulf. 

The Rochester Beacon’s Election Dashboard shows that Morelle has raised more than $1 million for his campaign, compared with Mitris’ $301,000. Funds for the Democrat’s race came from across the state, including contributors in several downstate counties including Westchester, Suffolk, Queens and the Bronx. Mitris’ campaign is largely self-funded, with $3,223 raised in Monroe County.

In 2018, Morelle defeated Republican James Maxwell, 59 percent to 41 percent.

Joseph Morelle

In a recent locally televised debate highlighted by both candidates on their campaign Facebook pages, Mitris argued that his status as a non-politician would make him better suited to cross the aisle. Congress is divided, said Mitris, “and we’re not going to be able to fix it by sending the same politicians that are responsible in the first place—politicians are hard-wired to think in terms of party. I don’t want to hear it’s the president’s fault or it’s the speaker’s fault. I care about the American people.”

The comity Mitris aims for is laudable, but there is no possible way to reach it if one side, Mitris’ party, refuses to negotiate, Morelle countered. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus-relief bill in May, but Senate Republicans and the White House ignored it for five months. A second bill shaved $1 trillion off the first relief package but also met with Republican resistance. 

The Republican-controlled Senate, said Morelle, “hasn’t even passed a single bill in five months to deal with (pandemic relief). The president from your party—I’m sorry but that’s the ticket you’re running on—said ‘pull away from the negotiations,’ then he said ‘go big or go home’ and then he said ‘let’s do one-offs.’ It’s impossible to negotiate with somebody who just keeps moving the goal posts.” 

The Democrats’ relief bills were larded with items unrelated to pandemic relief, Mitris countered, echoing a critique first offered by House GOP leaders and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican.

What such extraneous items might be is not clear, Morelle replied.

“I haven’t heard my opponent say one specific thing he would do with or without,” Morelle said. “It’s easy to say just get together and compromise. We would do that if there were people to compromise with.”

George Mitris

With the U.S. Supreme Court slated to hear a Trump-backed challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act shortly after Election Day, the candidates offer different remedies should the act, popularly known as Obamacare, be struck down.

Mitris called for a federal law allowing health insurers to sell plans across state lines, a move that he claims would enable insurance companies to expand risk pools and thus lower premiums and for Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate with pharmaceutical firms to lower prescription drug prices.

Morelle concurs on the latter point. He co-sponsored a bill calling for lower prescription drug prices, which was passed by the House but not taken up by the Senate, he said. Should the ACA be struck down, other questions than premium costs would need to be addressed, Morelle added. The act’s provision barring insurers from refusing coverage to subscribers with pre-existing conditions would go away and millions would lose health insurance. 

In the pro-choice, pro-life debate, both candidates say they support a woman’s right to choose. Both also favor legalization of recreational marijuana. 

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.

3 thoughts on “Partisan divide hovers over 25th Congressional District race

  1. I’m not a fan of Morrele. But I have issues with someone who has made his fortune via the hardship of others. Considering majority of bankruptcies in this country are based on medical bills.

  2. This article is another tacit endorsement for the two party system. Three candidates are introduced but the views and histories only reflect two. The third candidate is dismissed as either unimportant or not quite legitimate.
    Since so many peoples’ candidate selection is strongly influenced by the media, this common media practice should not be allowed. When a media entity says it is nonpartisan, it should have to equally feature all legitimate candidates both in time and content. Otherwise an automatic preference is indicated.

  3. It is unfortunate that despite the title, the content of this Article ignores the central theme in the debate: lip-service to bipartisanship, while pursuing a one party control agenda. The evidence? Sabrina LaMar, Vincent Felder, Lashanna Boose, Brittany Wells….all people of color, all reported in the media and accused by one or more of the aforesaid to have been removed/pushed aside by Joe Morelle from their positions. The end result? A split in the Democratic party caucus ALONG RACIAL LINES, not policy, not philosophy, not geography, but race.
    The thematic weave running through the debate also highlighted another core issue: political hypocracy and the art of placating and appeasing a person or community with symbolic gestures and elegant rhetoric, while victimizing them at the same time. the evidence? Making cameo appearance at a blm protest, then being driven from another blm protest by the protesters themselves; claiming support the Black community but remaining silent when the leaders of the Black community protested publicly demanding answers from Mr. Morelle as to why he victimized them.
    The central theme of the debate is active victimization of a community by stripping it of political power by removing and pushing aside its elected leaders. This is the divide that the article has ignored, but which continues to play out in our district and our community -to the detriment of the Black community and ultimately to the detriment of all our communities. This is the divide we must combat, and which this author will strive to combat so long as I have breath to draw, as it is an unforgivable sin for a people to be victimized by their own elected officials with impunity. In one capacity or another, we must continue to work to mend the divide, unify and heal our communities, and this author has every intention of doing so –whether in my private or some other capacity.

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