Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who ran for a third term while under indictment in a campaign finance case and under fire for her handling of a police killing, was defeated Tuesday in the Democratic primary by City Councilman Malik Evans.
Evans’ win all but guarantees he’ll become mayor of New York’s third largest city. There is no Republican challenger on the November ballot.
The former Rochester School Board president entered the race in January, taking on the vulnerable Warren with a theme of restoring trust and government transparency.
“Tonight is the true beginning of our journey together to put Rochester in the upper echelon of U.S. cities where it belongs," Evans said to supporters in his victory speech.
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In a city that has been wracked by tension over policing, he said, “We need to make sure that we keep our city safe, that we have a system where our police officers are guardians and not warriors."
In her concession speech, Warren pledged to support Evans and urged her supporters to do the same.
She said her running despite all the turmoil around her was about her daughter “and all the little Black girls of this city. It was about letting them know that no matter what comes your way, you will never, ever give up.”
Both Warren and Evans are Black.
Warren said, “it is OK that the city has chosen to go in a different direction” and “this here isn’t an ending. It is just a beginning.”
Warren started to face calls for her resignation last summer amid protests over the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who was pressed to the pavement by a group of police officers until he stopped breathing.
In October, she was indicted on charges that she schemed to evade campaign contribution limits. Then in May, her husband was charged with being part of a drug trafficking ring.
She had remained defiant as she denied wrongdoing through multiple storms.
“I’m not your ordinary mayor,” Warren said during a debate shortly after police searched her home and arrested her husband. “I don’t have what some may say is a perfect life. I have a life that is like so many Rochesterians’. At times, it’s imperfect. At this moment, I believe that is exactly what our city needs. A mayor who relates to your challenges and delivers results.”
Warren said she and her husband, Timothy Granison, have been estranged for years and that she knew nothing about drugs or about guns allegedly found in her home. Granison has pleaded not guilty.
As for her own case, Warren has said she did not intentionally break any campaign finance rules.
“The facts and the truth is on our side and I am looking forward to being found innocent because I did nothing wrong,” she said.
A trial date has not been set.
Evans said the handling of Prude’s death had “torn the city apart” and eroded trust in government.
Prude’s March 2020 death received no scrutiny until his family obtained and released police body camera video nearly six months later.
Protesters accused Warren and other city officials of covering up the death to keep the video from coming out during violent protests sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“When you have someone say this can never see the light of day because we will all lose our jobs and the city will burn, well, it really left a stain on our community,” said Evans, who was on the city council when the circumstances of Prude’s death became public.
Warren claimed she had no idea the medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide until Aug. 4, when she saw the video. A report commissioned by the city council later concluded Warren was aware by April that several police officers were under investigation.
Evans was elected to the Rochester Board of Education in 2003 and served as its president from 2008-2013, overseeing an urban district that consistently posts some of the lowest achievement and graduation rates in the state. During his time on the board, the district’s graduation rates improved to just over 50%, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
“While it was a challenge, there was definitely more work to do. But I did my very best during my time on that board. I’m proud of my service,” said Evans, who said he played a role in the state expansion of pre-K programs.