Just days before they’ll head to the polls, voters finally got to hear all three democratic candidates spar in a debate.
Rachel Barnhart, James Sheppard and Lovely Warren debated for roughly an hour Thursday evening to show voters why they’re the best candidate to head the democratic ticket for mayor. The debate allowed the three to show how they differ on major platforms like jobs, education and drugs, a major priority as the city and much of the county deals with a heroin crisis.
Mayor Warren is against supervised injection sites, or places that provide clean needles for addicts and users. The idea is to give users clean needles so they don’t die, get sick or infected from using. Some advocates say it can reduce drug-related deaths and illnesses but Warren said she knows firsthand what addiction does to family and doesn’t want to facilitate this habit.
“Knowing firsthand what drug use can do to a family,” said Mayor Warren. “I can’t support supervised injection sites. I just won’t. The fact of the matter is I know what it does to children. I know what it does to families.””
However both Barnhart and Sheppard hit back with Barnhart stating that she also knows what addiction does to family first-hand which is why she supports the idea. She’d rather her family member come home than have to hide his addiction and possibly die.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” said Sheppard who said that he’s worked in the narcotics department of the Rochester Police Department for five years and knows firsthand it’s not possible for law enforcement to shoulder the work of stopping the crisis.
The discussion got pretty heated at numerous points with both Barnhart and Warren trading jabs.
Barnhart charged that Warren used a mirror campaign account as her “personal piggy bank,” sending someone to the Erie County fair, buying “100,000” of ice cream, and other large charges.
Barnhart called her felonious and stated that until she gets a letter saying she’s done nothing illegal she shouldn’t be saying she was found not guilty.
But Warren quipped back that Barnhart doesn’t even pay her own bills. “…by the way, you owe the city a delinquent water bill, why don’t you cut a check for that?” she asked, saying she’d come by with the bill herself. She also mentioned Barnhart’s $5,000 bill from Growth Marketing Group for using services to run for a New York State Assembly seat last year but Barnhart has stated she thinks that a political ploy because the CEO of the company is Arnie Rothschild who is helping Mayor Warren with the Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s performance venue on Parcel 5.
“You pay your bill…Want to manage the city finances,” she said.
“It’s not true,” said Barnhart after the debate. She said her bill is due the next day- Friday and later tweeted what she said is a screenshot of her bill as proof. Warren’s press secretary Brad Willows tweeted with what he said was a screenshot of his FOIL request for the water bills for all three candidates but some users charged he used a Microsoft Word document and cropped it.
In a follow-up interview, Warren’s team confirmed Barnhart hasn’t paid her bill for July, stating “Rachel’s bill is due.”
Warren even got the last word. Just after Sheppard finished his mini speech to end the debate she quipped, “this coming from the guy who hasn’t voted in 30 years.”
And social media was on fire. Did her team use a FOIL request, some wondered. Others compared her performance to Auntie Maxine, Representative Maxine Watters and loved her for it. Some tweeted that Barnhart stood out as the only one with ideas. Others took to Facebook to show their support for the mayor and her pStill others wondered who Bre’asia and Malik are, the two Rochesterians she referenced a couple times as examples of her work as mayor.
In the same follow-up interview, her campaign told OM, both Bre’asia Andrews and Malik Jenkins used the mayor’s job programs to find employment.
“[Jenkins] enrolled in Operation Transformation Rochester at age 17. He completed the ReJOB program (which prepares people for careers in the growing environmental remediation industry) at age 21, now he works at the water bureau and is supporting his newborn son. He was released from foster care last month,” stated Warren’s team in an email. They added Andrews, a graduate of the University of Buffalo, attended a job fair at City Hall and was introduced to ReJOB, later becoming an engineering technician.
“She always has an anecdote,” said Sheppard who criticized the mayor for not using data, statistics or numbers and choosing instead stories of voters and citizens she claimed to help.
Barnhart added it’s because the numbers don’t reflect well on her.
The debate came after weeks of speculation there’d be no debate before Primary Day. Warren was hospitalized in late August for an allergic reaction and missed two debates. Days later when she was released and recovering at home, her campaign stated she wouldn’t be rescheduling the debates. However, the Chamber of Commerce canceled their forum with the three candidates and gave up that slot for a debate instead.
It’s the only debate before Primary Day.