IS RACHEL BARNHART RUNNING FOR THE ASSEMBLY?
Is Rachel Barnhart running for the Assembly?
That’s what a party chairman asked me yesterday.
Is Rachel Barnhart, a well-respected Rochester television reporter, considering a run for the New York state Assembly?
It wasn’t the first time I had heard the question, or seen the topic addressed, but this time I passed the question along to Rachel Barnhart, to see what she would say.
“It’s flattering that people think I would do a good job representing Rochester in Albany,” she responded. “But making such a transition is extremely difficult for a journalist.
“We can’t keep our day jobs and run for office. And we can’t return to our jobs if we lose. It’s difficult to even explore running for office, as I don’t want to compromise my integrity as a journalist.
“Right now, I’m focused on doing good work, and keeping the public informed.”
I can imagine that if Rachel Barnhart were herself holding the microphone and she received an answer like that, her response would be, “So, you are running then, right?”
Because in those words you see nothing whatsoever resembling a denial. But you do see the basic situation in which she finds herself. With bills to pay like anyone else, even the exploration of a political bid could jeopardize her livelihood.
Rachel Barnhart lives in the Assembly district currently represented by Harry Bronson. An activist lawyer by vocation, Bronson has been a low-profile assemblyman during his five-year tenure. Not often seen on the evening news, he doesn’t return calls from my radio show.
But as an incumbent, it’s unsure if he could be beaten.
If anyone could do it, though, a Rachel Barnhart would be a likely candidate. Not only a local television fixture for more than a decade, she is arguably the most prominent Rochesterian in social media, and is a local blogger of some significance.
She also is Rachel Barnhart.
Tough, smart, pretty, and very strong willed, the Rachel Barnhart brand as an unflinching community protector is sterling. She has demonstrated her intelligence, connections and grit on the news every night for years on end, and it’s likely potential voters have been paying attention.
Personally, I think she’d be wasting herself in the Assembly. If I were playing fantasy politics, I’d have her run for Monroe County clerk and play the long game to run for county executive.
She wouldn’t be the first one down that path.
Maggie Brooks famously went from being a television reporter to a county legislator to county clerk to county executive. Similarly, long-time Rochester broadcaster Rich Funke left the anchor desk for a seat in the New York state Senate. People may agree or disagree with the policies of those two, but they both clearly demonstrated that they were up to the job.
And there’s no doubt Rachel Barnhart would be up to the job.
What Brooks and Funke had going for them was a well-organized and powerfully led county Republican Party. Rachel Barnhart has no such strength in the Democratic Party.
In one of the paradoxes of our region, Monroe County Republicans suffer from being too well organized while Monroe County Democrats suffer from being too poorly organized. One leans toward bossism and the other leans toward chaos.
Or worse, fratricide.
Not only is there not a strong Democrat leader to recruit Rachel Barnhart as a candidate, the current centers of Democrat power are so jealous of that power that they sabotage one another in order to avoid the rising of a potential threat.
If Rachel Barnhart was a Republican, the party chairman would already have her lawn signs printed. As a Democrat, however, she’s on her own, and can probably expect only opposition from her fellow progressives.
Should she run?
Only she can decide that.
But she is a person of exceptional knowledge, ability and prominence. And she believes powerfully in her philosophy and her city. She has been an exceptional reporter, and would presumably be exceptional in any other walk of life.
Should the potential political opportunity she now faces jeopardize or call into question her journalistic integrity or employment?
I don’t think so.
Her liberal bent has been obvious and unhidden for years. It colors her assumptions, but not her reporting. She has the naivete of the doctrinaire, but that is true of most believers, left or right. And her social media positions have shown clearly a willingness to take stands and express opinions.
I think she’s the same reporter she’s always been, with the same high degree of reliability and community trust, no matter which direction this goes.
So that’s the story.
She was asked if she was considering a run for the Assembly.
And she didn’t deny it.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2016