Another first in the Monroe County Legislature

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Democrat Sabrina LaMar’s election to the presidency of the Monroe County Legislature on Jan. 3 was historic, marking the first time a woman of color has held the position.

A week later, the Legislature’s Democratic Caucus announced a new leadership team that also was historic—it consists entirely of women for the first time.

However, LaMar is not part of that leadership team.

Yversha Roman will continue serving as minority leader, while Rachel Barnhart and Linda Hasman become assistant minority leaders.

“I’m very excited to continue leading our caucus—a caucus that encompasses the tremendous diversity of our community. Our members represent districts that stretch from the very center of our city, all the way to the county line,” Roman says.

Barnhart echoes those sentiments, and adds: “(I) look forward to continuing to work with the administration, and across the aisle.”

LaMar’s omission from the leadership team is not surprising. She was part of a breakaway Democratic group in 2020—the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus—and reached a deal with Republicans to secure her election as Legislature president. 

An announcement on Facebook confirmed the BADC will expire this year as LaMar was the only one among the four legislators to win re-election.

According to its website, the caucus intended to “advocate for the interests of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) within Monroe County.” Some of the members’ efforts included proposing Gantt’s Law, which aimed to make it easier for minority and women-owned businesses to win Monroe County contracts, and renaming the Rochester airport after abolitionist icon Frederick Douglass.

The caucus often voted counter to other Democratic representatives and allied with Republican members of the Legislature. They aligned with Republicans three times to override vetoes by Democratic County Executive Adam Bello.

LaMar’s election as Legislature president broke down along partisan lines with all 14 Republican legislators voting for her, and 14 Democrat legislators opposing her candidacy. LaMar thinks this result suggests she can serve as a bridge between the two parties.

“I also believe that it’s important for someone to be that mediator,” she says. “Someone who has that temperament to reach across the aisle and to work with both parties. And I think I’ve demonstrated that over the past two years, three years, as a county legislator. And I’m hoping to build upon that.”

Other Democrats, including the new leadership team, instead saw LaMar’s election as a decision to caucus with Republicans and in a press release called it “a disappointment to many of our constituents who elected a Democratic majority.”

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer.

6 thoughts on “Another first in the Monroe County Legislature

  1. Ms. LaMars cynical deal with the Monroe County Republicans to elect herself to the presidency of the legislature reminds me of a line from the movie, “A Man for All Seasons” where Sir Thomas More chides a one-time friend for selling out to achieve high office, ” Why Richard, it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . but for Wales!”

  2. I am by nature an optimist. So it remains to be seen if Ms. LaMar is letting her ego and self-interest guide her or if she will actually be able to more effectively do the people’s work. One hint might be her vocal excoriation of Joe Morelle, last year I believe. Historically, Republican County leadership always acted as if the City was not part of the County. Although I don’t know for a fact how true allegations of corruption and self-dealing by Republicans were over the past thirty years or so, I do know I was often left with a bad taste in my mouth when reading about some of their shenanigans. I was and still am hopeful that Ms. LaMar reverts to her Democratic roots and sides with the other Democrats when it comes to giving the people of the City what they need and deserve.

    • “…reverts to her Democratic roots and sides with the other Democrats when it comes to giving the people of the City what they need and deserve???” WHAT???!!! When have Democrats given those among the “people of the City [who are suffering the most] __ what they need and deserve?” This is NOT a rhetorical question. When???

  3. It seems Ms. LaMars believes hers is the only district that represents people of color in the county, or she represents a majority of people of color in the County, and neither is true. Monroe County Democrats, including a majority of people of color, voted for democratic control of the County Legislature. I will refrain from judgement until I see how proposals are brought forward from committees for debate and voting, and how Ms. LaMars votes. Right now, however, I am very cynical of this self-promotion.

  4. “a caucus that encompasses the tremendous diversity of our community???” Really??? How many poor Black folks does it include???

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