Challenger Malik Evans earned a decisive victory over Mayor Lovely Warren in Tuesday’s Democratic mayoral primary in Rochester.
Unofficial results with all districts reporting showed the City Council member with 66 percent of the vote versus 34 percent for Warren.
Around 10:30 p.m., Evans spoke to supporters, telling them that “tonight is the true beginning of our journey together to put Rochester in the upper echelon of U.S. cities, where it belongs. … Tonight, we need to focus on building bridges with a foundation of trust and transparency.”
Evans entered the race in January, taking on Warren, who was seeking a third term. The mayor began with a big financial edge, but Evans steadily closed the gap and by late May he had a substantial advantage in available funds. That edge grew in the final weeks of the campaign, as Evans outraised Warren by a margin of more than 3-to-1.
In addition, Warren suffered a series of blows in recent months: Her administration’s handling of the Daniel Prude case came under fire; she was indicted on campaign finance charges; and her husband was arrested on charges related to alleged drug trafficking.
Evans, a financial wellness manager at ESL Federal Credit Union, took the high road in his campaign, focusing on his theme of building bridges and emphasizing his long record of community involvement and leadership in the Rochester area. He told the Beacon in February: “I’ve always said I’m running for an office and not against someone and that’s going to be my focus in this campaign.”
A Rochester native, Evans attended the University of Rochester. A year after graduation, Evans ran for a seat on the city school board and won. The youngest person ever elected to the board, he served as president of the board for three terms. He was first elected to City Council in 2017.
In his brief speech to supporters Tuesday night, Evans made it clear that addressing the wave of violence Rochester is experiencing and restoring trust between police and the community would be priorities.
“We need to make sure that we keep our city safe,” he said, “that we have a system where our police officers are guardians, not warriors.” Added Evans: “(We must) we stop the bloodshed we have seen over the last six months.”
In other Democratic primary contests, City Council incumbents Willie Lightfoot, Mitch Gruber and Miguel Melendez Jr. won, along with Stanley Martin and Kim Smith. Incumbent Cynthia Elliott, along with Camille Simmons and James Patterson, won in the Rochester school board primary race.
Meanwhile, Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, who has faced allegations of sexual harassment, lost his re-election bid in the 29th District, losing by a more than 2-to-1 margin to William Burgess.
Additional coverage of Tuesday’s primaries will be posted Wednesday.
Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.