Is Rochester, New York a Liberal City?

Skyline of Rochester, New York along Genesee River at sunset

To live in Rochester, New York, as I did for over 20 years, is to behold the political philosophies of the people. Whether or not I take hold of those ideas is a well-kept secret that will not be revealed henceforth, but an in-depth discussion of the political beliefs of this wonderful city will ensue.

Rochester, New York is a liberal city that has a long history of implementing progressive ideas typical of those supported by liberal philosophies. It began with the women’s rights movement in the 1800s and has continued to the present day by upholding liberal-leaning government officials.

Many aspects of Rochester can be called liberal and as mentioned there is a long and interesting history as to why that is the case.

Beginnings of Liberalism

A very proud narrative found in the history of Rochester is Women’s Rights. The story begins in nearby Seneca Falls with a convention of men and women that would serve as an important step on the way to women’s equality. This 1848 meeting featured important leaders like Frederick Douglas, Elizabeth Canton Staton, and Lucretia Mott.

The result of this two-day meeting was the famous Declaration of Sentiments which is a foundational piece of literature in feminism.

Many of the members of this famous meeting later formed the Rochester Women’s Rights Convention which became the first organization in the United States to elect a woman as the leader with a mixed body of both men and women. Abagail Bush served as the presiding leader until the start of the Civil War.

Women’s advocacy continued after the Civil War with the presence of Susan B. Anthony. In 1872, Anthony was arrested for attempting to use the 14th Amendment to vote for Ulysses S. Grant for president.

The residents and leaders of Rochester are unanimously proud of the groundbreaking events that took place in their streets. There are numerous memorials and monuments dedicated to Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists in order to remember the great progress that has been made towards equality.

Additionally, Rochester is home to the above-named Abolitionists and similar pride and monuments are had within the City. The airport that serves the Greater Rochester area was renamed in 2020 the “Frederick Douglass International Airport” to honor the great abolitionist.

Track Record

Democrat icon. Trendy flat vector Democrat icon on white background from United States of America collection, vector illustration can be use for web and mobile, eps10

Residents of Rochester, including the metropolitan area, have long been voting for liberal-leaning leaders for a long time. The State of New York hasn’t voted for a democratic president since Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Rochester reflects those patterns.

A great example is the 2020 elections. According to The New York Times, most electoral areas within the city limits of Rochester voted for Biden over Trump by 50 points. One area had 97% of residents voting for Biden. Even a large majority of the metropolitan area overwhelming voted for Biden.

Data is harder to uncover by year, but Monroe County (which holds Rochester) has almost always voted democratically with the exception of nationwide favorites like Reagan.

New York state is already very liberal, but the city of Rochester is more liberal by the percentage of Democratic voters. Rochester’s elections are decided by a larger margin than is the state of New York for the President of the United States.

Monroe County is less liberal than either the state of the city and this is due to its larger area which spills into more rural areas that tend to be more conservative in politics.


Rochester is currently on their 71st mayor, with the inaugural mayor beginning his term in 1834. The mayors of New York have been representative of a number of political parties throughout history.

Out of the first 20 mayors of Rochester, 10 were democratic and 10 were whig. Out of the next 51 mayors, 21 were Democratic, 29 were Republic and 1 was part of the rare American party. So it would seem that historically Rochester is republican but it is a little more complicated than that.

The political platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties would begin to switch during Lydon B Johson’s presidency starting in 1963 and would continue to shift throughout the years.

So actually counting “liberal” or conservative mayors is trickier than just viewing which party each ran for. To switch each democratic and republican mayor’s respective party before 1970, Rochester would appear to be overwhelmingly democratic.

Since 1974, Rochesterians have exclusively voted in democratic mayors. 7 of those were elected mayors and 2 were interim mayors. The predictability of voting in a democratic mayor has been so resolute that once the democratic candidate is determined, they usually win the general election without opposition from any other party.

The current Mayor is Malik Evans who won against the former mayor, Lovely Warren, beating her 66% to 34%, and then won the general election without a single other candidate as opposition. He was sworn in on January 1, 2022.

The city council is less motivated by political agenda and deals more with the practical side of government. Pursuing through their minutes and proposed legislationOpens in a new tab. over the last few years shows much of what they do is allocating money to different organizations as well as approving or disapproving proposals given to them. But to be general, the city council often allocates money to public organizations, which is generally a liberal practice, though not exclusively by any means.


It is amazing how detailed and scrupulous legal policies are. After thumbing through a few of them, it is clear it takes a patient and attentive mind in order to write an official policy for a major city. It is also clear that the majority of policies enacted by the cityOpens in a new tab. council of Rochester with the approval of the mayor lean liberal.

As an example, 21 resolutions and 6 ordinances were enacted starting April 4th, 2022. Every single one of the 27 new laws was passed unanimously (9-0) and funded a variety of projects, all were neutral or liberal in nature. Resolutions included allocating money for the education system and increasing the wages of Rochester Housing Authorities.

There was also a hilarious resolutionOpens in a new tab. to refund a property owner who was charged for 9,003,000 gallons of water instead of the 3,000 actually used. The refund was for over $23,000.

It is not always to determine if authorizing money to be spent on street reconstruction is liberal or conservative since most everyone, regardless of political affiliation desires improved roads, but since conservatism generally aims to limit government spending, enacting 27 laws where most of them are to spend money on the public, it can be generalized to say the council is liberal in nature.

George Floyd Protests

Black lives matter international activist movement protesting against racism and fighting for justice – Demonstrators from different cultures and race protest on street for equal rights

An important movement to liberalism in America is the fight against police brutality which falls under the umbrella of Black Lives Matter. Rochesterians actively take part in these ideas and have adamantly expressed their desire to limit police influence as well as advocate for more equal rights for African Americans and minorities.

After the death of George Floyd by police hands in Minnesota, thousands marched in Rochester to express their support for Floyd’s family as well as other victims of police brutality across America. Protestors were present around the city, mainly appearing near MLK Jr. Memorial park and police precincts in an attempt to change the nature of equality for African Americans.

The protests were generally peaceful as opposed to a few other demonstrations in some other cities across America. The few exceptions were a few Rochester Police Department cars that were overturned and set on fire. In total only 2 people were charged with rioting, while the rest of the protestors purely wanted their voices to be heard without violence.

Roe Vs Wade

Since the supreme court overturned the court case of Roe vs. Wade, which prevented states from passing laws to stop women from getting abortions legally, Rochesterians have taken to the street to show their disapproval of the ruling. Abortion rights are a part of the liberal ideals in America, and as a liberal city, Rochester has continued its support of the now defunct court ruling.

A rally was held at Rochester City Hall by the group “Bans off our BodiesOpens in a new tab.“. The event was organized to align citizens in their goals and motivation against the supreme court ruling. Their slogan was “We won’t go back” meaning a time before the famous court case came about in 1972.

New York is allowed to have its own policies concerning abortion and there is no longer a national standard after the loss of Roe Vs. Wade, and so New York has been free to make whichever laws they desire. The state allows abortions during the third trimester, and New Yorkers are not at risk of losing the right to abortion.

Instead, protestors are hoping to gather support on a national level to make a law change at the federal level, or to influence other states to protect abortion rights where public support is less clear. Residents are nervous about the move to a state where abortions aren’t allowed and so protests are their way to assure the future.

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Nathan Aydelotte

Hello! I'm Nathan, the lead editor for Suggested by locals. I grew up in the Boise, Idaho area and have lived here most of my life. I enjoy being close to the mountains where I can go hiking, camping, and mountain biking.

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