ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The incumbent and challenger in the 137th Assembly District Democratic primary both see Albany playing a key role in solving problems on the local level.  

Demond Meeks is the incumbent in the 137th, which includes parts of Rochester and Gates. The former labor organizer first ran in 2020.

“It was like all roads went back to Albany, as related to some of the challenges that we were experiencing as a community,” said Meeks.

The Democrat Meeks faces a primary challenge from retired firefighter, Air Force veteran, former county legislator and current city council member Willie Lightfoot.

“I’m running because our community is in a state of emergency,” said Lightfoot.

That statement refers to crime and violence, where the two have different philosophies. Meeks supports clean slate legislation. Lightfoot wants bail reform.

“Communities that tend to have more opportunities, more resources tend to lack the level of violence that we see in those communities that have been deprived for so long,“ said Meeks. “And we have to look at systemic practices that created the circumstances. I truly believe that we can’t police our way out of this.”

“I think the thing that sets me apart most from my opponent is one, our stance on public safety,” said Lightfoot. “I’ve signed a consortium for common sense laws concerning the bail reform. I think that's a huge distinction between us too. He has not.”

Lightfoot received the Democratic party nomination in the race. Meeks points out he didn’t have party backing in 2020 either, when he was first elected.

“And that's something that I've been committed to realizing, that in this role, I subscribe to servant leadership,” said Meeks. “I struggle to this day when people say, 'oh, that's the politician.' Because as a servant leader, you know that you're here to provide a service for those who put you here. And that's this community in which I serve.”

“I just have a wealth of experience that I believe is necessary for such a state of emergency that our community is in,” said Lightfoot. “Our community is in a state of emergency that requires an emergency response, which requires an emergency plan, and an experienced leader that knows how to lead during those types of times.”

Both candidates tout their community service, and share concerns on housing and jobs. 

Early voting ends June 23. Primary Day is June 25.