• Candidate Profile: Jen Lunsford for NY State Senate

    Jen Lunsford is a lawyer, a mom, and a community volunteer running for the New York State Senate against Rich Funke in the 55th District.  Jen is 36 years old and resides in Penfield with her husband, Scott, a Pittsford native, and their two-year old son.  After graduating from Boston University School of Law in 2009, Jen moved to Rochester to begin her legal career.  Since then, she has worked to protect the interests of sick and disabled people through her work as an attorney, and to advocate for children as a volunteer with the Center for Youth.  Jen believes that public service works best when it actually serves the public.  She has pledged to hold regular public forums and open office hours throughout her district once she is elected.

    “Elected office is a customer service job. Too many elected officials forget who they work for and shut themselves off to opinions that differ from their own.  When you are given the privilege of serving your community you owe it to those you represent to hear them out, even if they didn’t vote for you or donate to your campaign.  When you are elected to office, you should represent everyone, even those who disagree with you.  Something I have learned over the course of my legal career, where I meet people from all walks of life, is that we are far more the same than we are different.  We all want the same things– quality schools, good healthcare, safe communities and good job opportunities for ourselves and our families– we just sometimes disagree about how to get there.”

     

     

  • Part I – Election Integrity Taking a Back Seat

    It sounds a bit like the premise of a Bond (or possible Austin Powers?) movie:

    Hoards of the best (and worst) hackers descend upon Las Vegas in a pair of events shrouded in silence and mystery with one nefarious purpose: hack the election.

    In this case though, the events are called Black Hat USA and DEF CON, and they recently wrapped up on the 12th of August, 2018.  DEF CON, and its more nefarious sibling, Black Hat, were back-to-back conferences for those interested in . . . let’s say “computer security and best practices.”

    Oh, and the circumvention thereof.

    This year’s DEF CON, the 26th, was themed “1983: The View from Dystopia’s Edge,” and true to this glaringly obvious tagline, the premise was about governmental security and the use of technology to control people (and their collective attention span).  Speakers had topics such as “A Journey Into Hexagon: Dissecting a Qualcomm Baseband” and “Hacking PLCs and Causing Havoc on Critical Infrastructures.”

    We all know the stereotypes.  Reclusive hackers with bad personal grooming and worse morals.  To be fair, in aggregate, those only fit in movies and in “presidential” debates that include He Who Will Not Be Named.  But with topics like these, it’s not a far stretch to imagine that the typical event-goer was of a different sort.

    Now, with all of this info, you might be tempted to box this passel of “nerds” away in your head as a means of dismissing them, but these folks are the real deal.  One of the headline speakers was Rob Joyce, Senior Advisor for Cybersecurity StrategyFor the NSA.  And if the NSA takes these people seriously, it’s a pretty solid indication that so should you.

    This year and last, DEF CON included a “Voting Village” made up of retired (but standard issue) voting machines used in elections around the United States.  The aged Diebold TSX machines (still in use in Georgia, by the by) were there, as well as others such as ES&S and WinVote.  It should inspire no confidence when you read the following headlines, then:

    To be fair, the 11-year-old hacker didn’t actually change the results of Florida’s presidential vote; she changed the displayed tally which, upon any further inspection, would have been shown to be incorrect.  And the 17-year-old hacker didn’t actually hack a state election; he used the same machines that are currently being used by various states in our union, and was able to fully modify votes, change candidate names, and even gave Gary Johnson (remember him?) 90 billion votes In one state.

    In case the lines weren’t drawn clearly enough for you: tweens and teens hacked regulation election equipment in under an hour.  What chance do our elections stand, as is, against a hostile nation? Now, I do not wish to dismiss the talent of these two young computer enthusiasts in the least, but they were in all likelihood far from the best hackers at either conference, and their efforts were part of a very public showing of how poor the computer and operational security is/was surrounding our voting machines.

    This type of activity, attempting to break, characterize flaws, and publish, is inherent to something called “white hat hacking,” and although this type of work might sometimes irk companies and institutions (who are often the very public recipients of shame for easy or trivial hacks, such as those on display at the Voting Village), the sum total of these activities is positive: they force a change that increases our security.

    Earlier on, I mentioned that DEF CON was part of a pair of conferences, the other being Black Hat.  Two guesses as to the intent of that conference?

  • Candidate Profile: Fatimat Reid for Family Court Judge

    The American Dream is alive and well in Fatimat Reid, a candidate for Monroe County Family Court Judge, who is a prime representative of this ideal. Her unique life story began in the state of New York, where she was born. As a child, her family moved to Nigeria, where she was raised during an important period of her life. She returned to the United States and then, at the age of ten, she became the subject of a Family Court custody action and spent time in foster care. These experiences give her a special perspective on Family Court. “I understand, from first-hand experience how frightening and frustrating court proceedings can be for children and all involved, particularly for those stricken by poverty and those with immigrant identity status.”

    Not only does Ms. Reid bring significant personal experience to the judicial bench from the perspective of a child involved in a family court case, she also brings extensive professional experience. Reid has established herself in the legal community as an attorney who has broad legal experience having served private practice as well as government entities. She currently serves as Chief of Staff for the Rochester City School District (RCSD). At RCSD she supports the school district’s mission of providing quality education while promoting wellness for all children and their families in the community. Ms. Reid commented, “I am honored to work in conjunction with educators and families serving the needs of all students”

    A passion for and knowledge of the law completes an impressive professional profile for Ms. Reid. She graduated from the University at Buffalo Law School and is a member of the Monroe County Bar Association, the Rochester Black Bar Association and the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys. She began her legal career as an attorney with the law firm of Davidson Fink LLP and with Wolpoff and Abramson. Most recently, she has served as a City of Rochester Municipal Attorney and as an Associate Counsel for the Rochester City School District.

    Her campaign’s Web site lists and describes numerous awards and important recognitions that Fatimat Reid has received from the community and from professional organizations in Monroe County.

    When asked her perspective about current situations, such as the treatment many children and adolescents are experiencing at the U.S. southern border and other cases involving child abuse in Monroe County, she said that she will “adhere to and apply the law as it relates to each case that arrives in front of her with fairness and expediency.” In doing so, she always prioritizes “the well-being of children.”

    Reid also referenced the principles contained in the United Nations Declaration of Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN in 1989 and brought into force in September of 1990. That universal proclamation establishes the rights of the child with the goal that each child “may have a happy childhood and enjoy for his/her own good and for the good of society the rights to freedoms.” This document enshrines universal principles of justice that call “upon parents, men and women as individuals, voluntary organizations, local authorities and governments to recognize these rights and to strive for their observance,” concluded the judicial candidate for Family Court in Monroe County.

    Experience, fairness, and knowledge of the law: Fatimat Reid has it all!

  • Get Ready to Vote in the Upcoming Elections: September Primary and November General Election

    Get ready to vote in the upcoming elections. There is a New York state and local primary on Thursday, September 13 from noon to 9 p.m. and there is a general election for federal, state, and local offices on Tuesday, November 6.

    You still have time to register to vote for the primary – the deadline is August 19.

    The deadline to register to vote for the November general election is October 12.

    There’s a great Web site you can use to find out if you are registered to vote, where you vote, the candidates for which you will be voting (sample ballots are not yet available, but will be soon), to change your voting information (e.g., change your address if you’ve moved), and to request an absentee ballot. Here’s the link:
    https://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/

    How to Register to Vote

    If you need to register to vote, you can use the link, https://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/ and then click on the tab, “Register to Vote.” You will be taken to copy of the voter registration form that you can fill out and mail in. If you are registering in Monroe County, the mailing address is Monroe County Board of Elections, 39 Main St. W., Rochester, NY 14614. Mailing addresses for the Boards of Elections in other counties are on the form itself.

    A Spanish version of the voter registration form can be found at:
    https://www2.monroecounty.gov/files/MonroeCounty-Mail-Spanish-2015.pdf

    You can also call the Monroe County Board of Elections at 585-753-1550 to request a voter registration form be mailed to you.

    You can even register online at the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Web site, if you have a New York driver’s license, learner’s permit, or a non-driver identification card. Here’s the link to use:
    https://dmv.ny.gov/more-info/electronic-voter-registration-application

    Eligibility to Vote

    You must be a United States citizen to register to vote.

    The minimum age for voting is 18 at the time of the election, so you may register if you are not yet 18 but will turn 18 before the election in which you wish to vote. So, for example, if you want to vote in the primary on September 13, you can register even if you’re only 17 as long as you will turn 18 by September 13. Similarly, you may register for the general election even if you’re now 17 as long as you will turn 18 by November 6. You do, of course, have to register by the appropriate registration deadlines specified above.

    If you are convicted felon, you are eligible to register to vote once you have completed your sentence including probation.

    Who is on the Ballot in the Upcoming State and Local Primary?

    At the state level, there is a two-way primary for the Democratic nomination for the office of Governor. The candidates (in alphabetical order) are the incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, and Cynthia Nixon.

    There is also four-way primary for Attorney General. The candidates are Leecia Eve, Tish James, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Zephyr Teachout.

    At the local level, primary candidates will vary depending on where you live. You can use the https://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/ link to check your ballot as the date of the state and local primary (September 13) grows near.

    Where can I get Information about the Candidates?

    Most candidates have Web sites where you can learn more about them. Do an Internet search using the candidate’s name to find their Web site.

    In addition, a number of non-partisan groups offer candidate information. Examples are:
    • The League of Women Voters – New York state: http://lwvny.org/
    • The League of Women Voters (Rochester chapter): http://www.lwv-rma.org/
    • Ballotpedia, an encyclopedia of American politics and elections: http://www.ballotpedia.org/

  • Infiltrating American Democracy: Team Watch or Team Defend?

    By Lottie Gonzalez-Habes

    In New York state, and in Monroe county’s towns, suburbs, and cities, we are witnessing events coming from multiple fronts signaling that America’s democracy is being infiltrated. The ultimate goal is to weaken core beliefs we have established as a nation. The country, granted, is an imperfect union, but it remains a world model for free societies. Infiltration has begun with subtle messaging from bad “actors” entertaining audiences in American living rooms. It has spread, unintentionally, with help from small town radio and television outlets, and it has reached high pitch with the popularity of “people friendly,” technology-driven social media platforms. When voices dare to publicly express an opinion about these infiltration efforts aloud, gullible partisans and the opposition brush concerns aside by labeling it “exaggeration,” “hyperbole,” and other dismissive terms.

    History and writers teach us that language has been a most effective weapon when enemies of democracy have attempted and succeeded in subverting societies in other parts of the world. Our American principles of freedom of press, transparency, government accountability, participation, and justice for all peoples are undergoing a brutal attack. The attack, however, is delivered with “soft salesman” tactics. The attack on democracy is reaching American audiences using all the traditional propaganda tools: repetition, smiles, big lies, humor, and appearance of strength, as well as appeals that exploit emotions and grievances some may feel. If this sounds familiar to you as a reader, if we think that what we see happening has happened at another time, or if what we hear taking place even vaguely reminds us of high school level history classes, it is because all of it has happened before in other places to people around the world. Why then doubt that similar infiltration efforts are taking root in our own county, cities, and rural and urban places?

    History confirms that a new version of the same ideas (which have destroyed freedoms around the world before) are being introduced in the United States. In 1944 Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Japan and Minister of War appropriated powers and promised a “new order in Asia” with his aggressive policies. And never forget how Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda (1933) believed that “people never rule themselves” and that “rank and file are usually more primitive than we imagine . . . Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious”.

    Most valued American principles are being undermined in front of our eyes by Trump’s Republican administration now in power: respect for public service, the right to unionize and organize, public schools, the right to vote and be elected in free elections, having a free and independent press, national security and public safety agencies, equal protection under the law, environmental protections – all are being undermined while we watch. Examples of recent attacks and the dismantling of important American principles are documented and published in local and national media but are too often to be dismissed.

    Are we choosing to be spectators or are we going to be defenders? All Democrats, whether we lean or consider ourselves left, centrist, or conservative, must stand in indivisible coalition acting locally to defend ourselves, the nation, its citizens, and those democratic principles we strongly hold.

    What can we do?

    Here in Rochester it’s time to choose a team. I am not talking about voting for a candidate running for office or choosing a campaign in which to volunteer. The decision is larger. We are called to decide whether we will be spectators on Team Watch, viewing a “reality” spectacle courtesy of Trump’s Republican broadcasting cronies, or are we going to work, resist and act locally in meaningful ways to advance democracy and defeat its enemies. It’s on us: Team Defend!

  • Candidate Profile: Zuleika Shepard for Family Court Judge

    It has become a Democratic mantra to say, “ this is the year of the woman,” mainly due to the significant number of female candidates around the country who have decided to throw their hats in the ring and run for public office at all levels of government .  Whether for local, town, city, county or state office, women are answering the call of the nation for public service.  Monroe county is no exception.

    Today we are proud to put the spotlight on Zuleika Shepard, a Monroe County Democratic Committee nominee for Family Court judge.

    As a Rochester native, Ms. Shepard is one of our hometown candidates running for the important county Family Court judicial bench, bringing with her firsthand knowledge of the community she seeks to represent. That background, combined with her training and professional experience, make her an exceptionally well-qualified candidate for the position as Family Court judge.

    Ms. Shepard  currently works as Deputy County Attorney in the Monroe County Law Department in the Family Court Unit.  Here, her passion for the law, safety and order, as these relate to all families of Monroe County, is witnessed in action in Shepard’s daily work, which includes numerous appearances in Family Court. Prior to that, she was an Assistant District Attorney in Monroe County. She has also operated her own private practice, and she was  Staff Attorney for the Capital District Women’s Bar Association Legal Project in Albany, repesenting women in domestic violence cases in Family Court concentrating on custody, visitation, and child support cases.

    She acknowledges the historic nature of her candidacy for a judicial position in Monroe County,  where an African American woman has never been elected to a family court judgeship. She knows she brings uniqueness and a diversity of perspectives to the bench.  She has observed how “ families, regardless of income levels, ethnicity , cultural, religious or social backgrounds  aspire to enjoy  a safe , happy life, and they wish to offer their members, to the best of their abilities, a supportive community in which to develop  and thrive, safeguarded  by equal treatment under the law.”  Zuleika Shepard pledges that the principle of applying the law to the facts “will continue to guide my work as Monroe County Family Court Judge – as it always has – if I am so honored with the people’s vote this November.”

    Colleagues, incumbent  leaders, citizens, neighbors of all political stripes, as well as new prospective voters who come in contact with and meet Zuleika Shepard, are immediately drawn to the story of this hometown woman.  This professional lawyer is also a karate champion and a black belt instructor who has served her community as a mentor of young  women 13-18 years of age.  From her adolescent years as a Wilson Magnet High School student in the Rochester City School District, to her  time at Ithaca College, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude,  through her distinguished completion of a J.D. at Hofstra University Law School (2007), Zuleika Shepard has exhibited qualities that are foundational  for those who aspire to serve on a judicial bench – empathy for others, patience,  professional and personal ethics, the ability to communicate, forebearance under demanding circumstances, and extensive knowledge of the law.

    Monroe County voters, we present to you Zukeika Shepard for the position of family Court Judge.  Judge for yourself!

  • For Prospective Candidates

    Here at the Monroe County Democrats, candidate recruitment and training is a key part of our mission. We are always seeking out the very best talent — from the private sector, community organizations, schools, and non-profits — and preparing local leaders for public office.

    For 2018 and beyond, we are especially seeking candidates for these positions:

    • Town and village court judges
    • Town and village boards
    • Town and village Democratic Committee members

    Great leaders come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and it’s hard to define all of the factors that will make a person likely to succeed in public office.

    In general, we are looking for candidates that have demonstrated success and bring practical experience to each position, along with a passion for and commitment to our community.

    For example, judicial candidates should have relevant experience practicing law, and they should be willing to come before the bar association judiciary committee for an evaluation of their qualifications for the bench. Town and city board members should have experience managing a staff, budget, and long-term organizational strategy.

    For more information about running for office, please contact your local town or city Democratic Committee leaders or the Monroe County Democratic Committee Chairwoman, Jamie Romeo.

    The recommended deadline to notify us about your intent to campaign for public office for 2018 has past, however, we will continue to meet with prospective candidates for specific positions past that deadline in preparation for the next available electoral opportunity.  If you are interested, let us hear from you!

     

  • We’re Kicking Off Petition Season!

    Hard to believe, but petition season is almost here! Our first day of petitioning will be Tuesday, March 6th.

    In New York State, petitions are the first step for candidates hoping to run for elected office. Over the next few weeks, thousands of community members will sign their support for our local leaders to help get their names on the ballot.

    Petitioning is also our first opportunity to get fired up for the coming year and reconnect with other Democrats in our neighborhoods. While signing petitions, community members can sign-up to volunteer on campaigns, host a lawn sign, or participate in voter registration drives.

    If you’re able to walk door-to-door carrying petitions, please contact your local town or city Democratic Committee leaders or our Operations Director, Henrietta Herriott. We will be putting together our petition-carrying teams over the next few weeks. We’ll start with Congressional petitions in March, then carry statewide and local petitions in June.

    For prospective candidates, it’s not too late to run! The deadline to notify us about your intent to campaign for public office is Wednesday, February 28th. Please visit our recruitment page for more information.

    To stay up-to-date with important news and events, please sign up for our newsletter.

     

     

  • Can Senate Democrats Foil FCC’s Unpopular #NetNeutrality Reversal?

    On the 14th of December, 2017, the FCC officially voted to end the “Obama-era” net neutrality regulation named the Open Internet Order, despite fervent opposition from Congress, technical experts, the American people, and the founders and pioneers of the Internet itself.  The 3-to-2 FCC vote, split along party lines, has been seen as a White House sponsored giveaway to massive telecommunications companies, and seems supported mainly by Trump, Russian spammers, and impersonated Americans. Continue Reading