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Johnson: "This is really the big one."

Former Mayor Bill Johnson knows a thing or two about upsets.
Former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson knows a thing or two about upsets. In 1993, he was a newcomer to politics without party backing when he bested a crowded field to win the Democratic primary for mayor. He went on to become the city's first black mayor, an office he held for 12 years.

Johnson thinks City Council President Lovely Warren's primary win for mayor bested his accomplishment.

"This is really the big one. Yes, I pulled off an upset, but I had four other people in the race to divide the vote," Johnson said. "This was a head to head match against a very popular, well-liked incumbent who had money, who had name recognition, who bought up most of the TV time, if not all of it. With all of those cards, she beat him. So I think we need to take all of our hats off and salute the thoroughness of this victory."

Earlier this year, Warren approached Johnson for support. He advised her against running. Johnson said Warren's mentor and employer, Assemblyman David Gantt, also advised her not to run.

"He and I agreed that Lovely should not run. But he said to me she's a srong willed person and if she runs I'm going to support her," Johnson said.

Johnson does not think Gantt would have too much influence over a Warren City Hall.

"Let's be very candid. She owes her professional advancement to David and she's not going to abandon him," Johnson said. "All the people who say David Gantt will have a key to the mayor's office at City Hall...he's an older guy. He's satisfied and happy she won, but I think he's going to let her run the city as she sees fit."

Johnson thinks the special election showed Richards did not have a lot of Democratic support. Johnson ran on a third party line and got 42 percent of the vote in that election. Richards did not crack 50 percent, even though he ran on the Democratic party line.

Johnson thinks Richards' campaign faltered badly.

"I don't want to take away from the thoroughness of Lovely's victory. It was complete. It was a thing of beauty," Johnson said. "But something had to happen, go wrong, horribly wrong on the other side."

Should Richards continue to campaign on the third party lines? After all, Johnson almost went back to City Hall on a minor party line.

"If I were in his position, I probably would not run," said Johnson, who added he does not think Richards' heart would be in such a race.

Johnson thinks Warren's progressive message and message of change helped her campaign. 

"There was a lot of violence in August in the city and it really shook people to the core, people being shot and killed in broad daylight on streets," Johnson said. "If you think about it, it cut against Mayor Rchards' mesage. If you watched his major ad he said, 'streets are safer, crime is down, public safety is at all time high.' The facts just did not bear out that message."

Advice for Warren?

"Savor this victory. Do not underestimate Alex White. Broaden your base. And get prepared, for not just the socioeconomic issues, but the real fiscal challenges that face this city."
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