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Rosas Accepts Big Lift Of Uniting Dems

Dunkirk Mayor and county Democratic Party Chair Wilfred Rosas stands with J.C. Seneca at an event announcing a partnership with Roswell Park.

Let the rebuild begin. Chautauqua County Democrats, under new leadership following the retirement of Norm Green, have more than a mountain of work ahead of them in attempting to shift the political landscape here that appears to be rock-solidly Republican.

Earlier this month, interim Chairman and Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas announced the party is seeking candidates for the New York state Assembly and Senate. Those potential candidates, if anyone steps forward, could face two powerhouses in incumbents Andrew Goodell and George Borrello.

“While the new Assembly and Senate district lines are unclear pending the Legislature’s completion of county redistricting maps resulting from the 2021 Census, our Democratic Committee is pressing forward together to field candidates our residents can trust and who will work to renew and grow our county,” Rosas said in a press release.

That is easier said than done. Over the past decade, Democrats have mustered up a flurry of wins during a Republican blizzard when it comes to leadership roles throughout upstate. As worries over inflation and COVID-19 grow on a national level, President Joe Biden’s less than stellar status in Washington is not helping matters on a local level either.

Rosas, who previously served as vice chair before taking the reins through the committee bylaws, acknowledged there is plenty of healing that has to take place in the fractured political group he is currently overseeing. “My vision is to unite the party,” he said. “We will have disagreements, but when we do we have to work them out and … stay together. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to be a factor in these elections.”

Party in-fighting during recent years was more competitive than recent election results in a number of contests. Both PJ Wendel and Jason Schmidt won their county executive and district attorney races with ease over Democratic challengers. Even in the cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown, where the left was almost always assured victories in the past, the GOP grip was maintained or strengthened as the councils now lean to the right.

Bluntly put, Republicans are dominating at a level locally like never before in the last three decades. Some of that has to do with strong candidates while another factor is the rural disdain for New York City and the liberal values that are connected to the world’s financial center.

Ironically, as the party represented by the donkey began its area descent, Rosas’ star power grew statewide. He cultivated connections in Albany and downstate while collaborating and communicating on a regular basis with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown

In GOP country, Rosas has been able to help deliver funding and support from Albany during his six years as mayor. He also understands that Democratic representation here still matters due to the makeup of the state.

“Many of the best programs and policies benefiting our county have resulted from having Kathy Hochul as our lieutenant governor and now governor,” he said. “We need Democratic representation in the Assembly and Senate so that we can work more closely with the majority party leadership and Gov. Hochul.”

Rosas said because of those relationships during his tenure, the city has received more than $15 million for projects that have led to repairs and community improvements. “We are receiving some needed attention from Albany which is where most of governmental funding comes from,” he said.

Taking a cautious tone, Rosas praised Green for his years of work but noted changes need to come. Last year, eight younger members of the party in Jamestown admitted their frustrations in how divisive things had become, noting a “long-standing monopolization of power that exists within our local City Democratic Committee, which, while legal, we consider to be very unethical.

Those concerns are definitely on the party’s radar as it tries to begin anew. “We need to work with (those who have left the party) and listen,” Rosas said. “If we listen to them, there’s going to be compromise … and that’s how we become stronger.”

Time, however, is not on the party’s side. Those who are interested in being candidates need to inquire or submit their name to Donna Karcz, committee secretary, by sending an email and resume to CHQDEM@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions, which might be moved depending upon the decisions regarding district lines, is Feb. 14 – 17 days away.

“We have more people involved who are organizing and coordinating things so we’re reaching out throughout the county to let them know we are going to continue to … have everyone included,” he said. “But we got a lot of work to do.”

John D’Agostino is the editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.

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