Gerald Gamm, a professor of political science and history at the University of Rochester, said that Mr. Singletary has a path to victory because his law enforcement experience gives him credibility with voters concerned about crime and other issues that favor Republicans.
“If you can get even a small fraction of votes from Black people in Rochester and combine those with more traditional Republican votes in the suburbs, along with votes from some independent voters who are concerned about crime or concerned about inflation and concerned about the economy, you build a winning coalition,” Professor Gamm said.
James M. Blount, 79, the publisher of a local magazine focusing on the Black community, was even more succinct.
“I think it’s closer than you think,” said Mr. Blount. “You can’t take nothing for granted.”
Rochester itself is deeply Democratic: It hasn’t had a Republican mayor in nearly a half-century. But the legislature in Monroe County, which includes the city and much of the district, is almost evenly split between the two parties, with its Democratic president, Sabrina LaMar, caucusing with Republicans to give that party the majority.
Ms. LaMar, who has feuded with Mr. Morelle in the past, said that many Black residents were still upset over Mr. Prude’s death, and that distrust of law enforcement remains high. At the same time, she believes that Mr. Singletary’s emphasis on crime could appeal to some Black voters.
“The same people who have been affected by Daniel Prude, especially within the inner city, have also been affected by homicides from gun violence,” said Ms. LaMar, who is Black, noting a spate of recent shootings, including the killing last year of her nephew. “And it seems like no one is doing anything about it.”
Both candidates are well-known in the district, with deep roots. Mr. Morelle, 65, is a former county legislator from Irondequoit, north of the city, where he lives just a few blocks from the house where he grew up and where his mother still lives. He served in the State Assembly for 14 terms, rising to the rank of majority leader, before running for Congress in 2018 to fill the seat of Representative Louise Slaughter, a liberal and longtime congresswoman from Rochester who died in office.